OTTAWA – More than 50 queer and transgender rights activists held a sit-in at Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street Saturday to protest the arrest of two people during the first Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Canada.
“None of us wants to be here, but we don’t trust that the police are going to treat them with respect and treat them fairly,” community activist Taiva Tegler told QMI Agency.
Two women were arrested at 1:18 p.m. Saturday after a banner reading “Remember Stonewall?” was unfurled over Highway 417 in the city’s Metcalfe region.
Stonewall refers to a gay bar in New York City that was raided by police in 1969, which led to the modern gay-rights movement.
Ottawa Police Service staff sergeant Hugh O’Toole said the arrest of the pair — who were brought in for mischief — is unfortunate.
“It’s their day, their event. Two members took it a little bit too far and created a public safety issue,” he said.
Shortly after the arrest, O’Toole said 50 protesters peacefully assembled at the station to wait for their friends.
“We took no issue with that,” he said. “Obviously, we want to get them out of here as soon as we can.”
Tegler said her friends were putting forward an important message and she isn’t surprised by their arrest.
“Whether you’re dropping a banner or simply existing, you will be targeted by the police,” she said.
Saturday’s arrest occurred on the same day as a groundbreaking flag-raising ceremony for the transgender community hosted by Ottawa Police.
But Tegler said she’s not buying it.
“We need to remember these communities continue to be criminalized and brutalized by police. We’re going through the paces to ensure police accountability,” she said.
Transgender Day of Remembrance honours those killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
Tegler said police are part of the problem, not the solution.
“The police do not represent safety for a lot of people,” she said.
O’Toole said there’s a difference between protesting and committing a crime.
“They were creating an unsafe situation on the 417, and we had to intervene,” he said.
Highlights of Canada’s first Transgender Day of Remembrance:
– The first Transgender Day of Remembrance was held Saturday in Ottawa.
– It began with a flag-raising ceremony at Ottawa Police Headquarters at 1 p.m., with speeches by NDP MP Bill Siksay and mayor-elect Jim Watson.
– Then there was a march to Parliament Hill to support Bill C-389, which would add Gender Identity and Gender Expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Criminal Code.
– At Parliament Hill participants rallied to promote transgender rights across Canada.
– A candlelight vigil was held Saturday night at the Canadian Human Rights Monument.