It’s Not a Few Bad Apples; It’s the Whole Damn System!

The SIU clears the uniformed thugs who murdered Junior Alexander Manon

By Kabir Joshi-Vijayan

On the evening of May 5, 2010, a horrific crime was committed in this city. The terror took place in what was more or less broad daylight, in front of numerous onlookers, off a major street and on the campus of a well-known university.

At around 6:30 pm, a victim fled two assailants who had been harassing him without any provocation at the Keele and Steeles intersection.

He made it to Founders Rd. just off Steeles when his attackers caught up with him. They knocked him to the ground and began to beat him mercilessly in the face and chest.

Despite the victim’s clear disadvantage and cries for help, the attackers called for five of their buddies to join in the frenzy.

When it was all over, Junior Manon lay collapsed on the ground with no vital signs, his blood splattered across the scene.

Members of his family arrived to see him in a stretcher and a neck brace being handled by EMS. He was pronounced dead in hospital the same day.

Most would point out that murders, perhaps not this brazen or horrific as Junior’s, but murders nonetheless, occur all too often in the GTA. Many would correctly identify the victims of such violence as being disproportionally young racialized men, particularly Africans, as was the case for Junior, an 18-year old Afro-Dominican teenager.

But what sets his killing apart — what should make it a tragedy of particular disgust and outrage for working people in this city is that this was a crime without the possibility of justice.

The institutions and systems that claim to uphold the rule of law offered nothing but insult and injury to Junior’s family, and assistance and protection to his murderers. Because, Junior’s killers were not other young black or brown men coming from the same social conditions as him; they were seven armed and well-paid paid employees of the state.

Junior was murdered by seven police officers.

In cases of deaths or serious injury caused by Toronto Police, there is a body called the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), set up by the province to investigate and put forward officers for criminal charges if any laws were violated.

We as community members are often told, as were the friends and family of Junior and his neighbourhood of Jane and Finch, (who in the months after his execution held a number of actions, statements and rallies), to hold our judgment and let the SIU do its job.

On January 13 of this year, this SIU concluded its investigation, and all officers involved were cleared of any possible charges.

No mention of blood on the scene. No mention of seven officers beating Junior.Nno mention of his cries for help or the many witnesses that attested to this (see BASICS article issue #20).

Instead, the SIU claims officers had the right to randomly pull him and a friend over at Keele and Steeles, had the right to arrest him for a probation violation and had the right to use force when he fled arrest. The cause of death was not a broken neck, but what the SIU calls ‘positional asphyxiation” — that the position Junior was put in at the time of his take down caused him to suffocate.

On January 27, the SIU cleared another police officer in the killing of another young black man: Reyal Jardine Douglas, a schizophrenic 25-year old gunned down by Toronto police last summer. Witnesses reported Reyal being shot as he fled, and that several shots were fired after he had already hit the ground.

These decisions by the SIU are in some ways more horrific and barbaric, and bigger crimes than the murders themselves.

If police brutality (violence that culminates in outright murder, but that takes the daily form of harassments, insults, assaults and arrests) was just the result of actions by a few rogue officers, would it be as big of an issue?

If cops that broke the law and violated human rights were, for the most part, prosecuted and punished by the courts and the government, wouldn’t it be logical for people to forget mobilizing and turn to the legal system for help?

If all impoverished/black/brown communities faced were a few hostile policemen, that wouldn’t be a big hurdle to overcome at all.

But the SIU’s deliberate manipulation and covering up of evidence, its lies and its final decisions show everyone, as clear as day, that what poor working-class and racialized people and communities face in this city is a hostile system.