By Izabela Szydlo
An angry audience at a panel discussion on gun violence in the city set its target on the police during a tense Q&A session last Thursday.
The conference, titled Triggering Toronto, brought out a small number of students and community members. About 35 people attended the discussion, but those who were present did not hesitate to question police strategy in dealing with the problem. “Who ensures nobody goes postal at the shooting range on the seventh floor of Union Station?” a local resident asked.
An audience member cried as she spoke about the state of her neighbourhood. Another man told of being racially profiled and beaten by police. Local resident Nkem Anzior said “the organized gang is the police union who keeps sucking all the money from the communities.” Joe Tomei, who represented the police on the panel, kept his answers short.
He did, however, deny allegations of racial profiling. “Never in the police service have I seen any thing coming close to racial profiling,” he said. Anizor said she thought Tomei’s denial of racial profiling was typical. “It goes to show you that the police are not interested in solving the problem. The solutions are out there,” she said. “This isn’t brain surgery; we’re going around in circles.”
The event, which was held at the Student Campus Centre, was sponsored by the Ryerson Student Law Society and CESAR. Before the event, co-ordinator Ben Smieja said it was his goal to give the student body a better understanding of gun violence. “I want to highlight that this is a social issue and putting more cops on the streets isn’t necessarily the answer. What we really need is more funding for social policy,” he said.
The event was also disrupted by noise from the Latin American Students’ Association, which was attempting to hold an end-of-the-year party in the foyer outside of the room. Speakers were constantly interrupted by the loud cheers and music but as Latin American Students’ Association organizer Sarah Weinrauch, explained, the group had problems booking a room.
“The fact that we’re disrupting a serious event puts a damper on our event also,” she said.