Two weeks ago at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, a Black alumnus was pepper sprayed and tasered by an RCMP officer in an allegedly racially motivated arrest.
Video footage of what happened has since surfaced on social media, quickly circulating and heightening concerns for students, professors, and the wider community.
Giovanni HoSang, a student and activist from Simon Fraser University made a tweet the day after the incident, asking why the Black alumnus was singled out and requested to provide ID on campus.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, SFU is only allowing students with ID to access their campuses. However, HoSang says this alumnus is known to SFU security, and has provided his ID in the past.
According to HoSang, the former student had just purchased a meal from the university’s dining hall when he was confronted by a security officer who then gave him the options of leaving the premises, or risking getting arrested.
In the video, you can hear the alumnus state that he feels he is being targeted.
Burnaby RCMP officers were dispatched to the scene around 9 p.m. for help with “a man that was familiar to them refusing to leave the dining hall.”
In the video, you can hear the former student state that he would like to have a lawyer moments before being thrown onto the ground.
With multiple spectators, the RCMP officer uses unnecessary force including both pepper spray and a taser on the alumnus, who later sustained injuries that were treated at the hospital, including the removal of electrodes from his skull.
The SFU Student Society President Osob Mohammed released a statement about the event on Twitter, condemning the arrest of the SFU alumnus. The statement reads that the incident took place “the day after a direct conversation with the Director of Campus Public Safety around the importance of de-escalation and the dangers of calling the police on individuals doing no harm,” and that the Student Society has “a reason to believe that this was a targeted event.”
1) A statement and apology from the SFU President and Campus Public Safety on their complicity in allowing this arrest to occur.
2) A review on how and when campus security interacts with the police
3) Immediately re-evaluate SFU’s relationship with Burnaby RCMP, including:
- Disallowing RCMP recruitment on campus
- Not calling police on Black and Indigenous Peoples particularly when no harm to SFU community members is being caused
4) More thorough training for SFU campus security on de-escalation tactics, anti-racism and bias-awareness.
SFU Campus Security also released a statement which claims that, Campus Public Safety (CPS) officers, “always take a peaceful approach to resolve situations,” and that “all CPS members have mental health first aid, crisis response and debriefing, verbal de-escalation and conflict resolution training, in addition to equity, diversity, and inclusion education.”
This blatant denial of responsibility by CPS is unacceptable. It further amplifies our need to call on authority to make a change. Accepting one’s faults is the first step, and is vital when it comes to preventing these situations from happening again.
Although SFU refuses to comment on details of the incident, they claim to have taken steps to better support the Black community at this time.
According to the university, these actions include the hiring of a Black trauma counsellor named Beverly Allen who was available between December 15-20 to support SFU’s Black community in light of the incident.
The Black Student Support and Healing Space Group, which is an initiative taken by SFU Health and Counselling Services, will also be starting in January to provide a space for “Black students to feel comfortable talking about Black experiences surrounding racism in a group setting.”
Unnecessary acts of violence against BIPOC communities is an issue that is still so prevalent in our society, as was shown by the level of force used in this arrest.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a racist incident like this took place at SFU. The community must take it upon ourselves to call for change, and demand our places of work and learning to do better.
Institutions such as SFU are in a privileged position to educate students, professors, and other community members on the atrocities faced by people of colour, and to help take measurable action to prevent these situations from occurring in the future. Refusing to release details or take measurable actions is unacceptable.
We must continue to spread awareness and call on each other to make a change. As previously said by Angela Davis, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.”
If we want to progress as a community and as a society, we must not let discrimination and hatred continue to divide us.
If you are interested in donating funds to help support the alumnus who was attacked, please click here.
About the author: Manisha is a freelance writer with experience on both radio and television, who is also the former titleholder of Miss Fiji Canada 2017. She is an artist, poet, and an SFU alumnus with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications. Manisha is the creator of the platform Bula Mental Health which is dedicated to bridging the gap between history, current events, and overall well-being. Check her out on Instagram: @exclusivelymanisha