Push for funding of mental health services after SPVM kills another Black man
Protesters held a demonstration on Nov. 7 seeking justice for Sheffield Matthews, a Black man who was fatally shot last week by police in Montreal. The protest called for the defunding of police and the reallocation of funds to mental health intervention teams that are trained to de-escalate people in crisis.
Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police Coalition organized the rally that took place in Trenholme Park in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood.
“I’ve had enough. I’m angered, I’m triggered, I’m just sad and annoyed that this keeps happening right in our backyards,” Antonia Haywood, a protester at the demonstration, told The Concordian. “When there’s a crisis involved, I don’t think the police should be there … we need people trained in crisis intervention and mental health to be present in times like these.”
Early last Thursday morning, police responded to a call of a man in crisis in NDG. When they arrived on scene, they reported seeing a Black man holding a knife near a civilian car. When the man came towards their squad car, police alleged that the man lunged at them with the knife and they shot him seven times, killing him.
Sue Montgomery, mayor of the borough Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, said she’s attending the protest in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
“It’s a tragic, senseless loss of life and I’m here to stand side by side with the Black community,” said Montgomery. “It’s clear there’s systemic racism in this city.”
Julien Lévesque, a spokesperson for the SPVM, said he had no comment on the killing of Matthews or response to the calls by protestors to defund the police. He said he supports the right for demonstrators to stage a protest, as long as it’s done safely.
Remy Gibbs, whose uncle was shot and killed by police two years ago in the same neighbourhood, spoke to the crowd in the park. Gibbs contrasted the killing of Matthews to the police’s treatment of Carl Girouard.
Girouard, who’s white, slayed two people and injured five with a sword in Quebec City this past Halloween. He was talked down and left unharmed by police.
“Sheffield Matthews supposedly had a knife and was still murdered after he didn’t kill anybody [which] is a sign that systemic racism does exist,” said Gibbs, megaphone in hand.
Hundreds of people cheered after each speech was made. Demonstrators chanted “No justice no peace, defund the police!” and “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”
After the speakers finished, the organizers led the protest to the streets as the chants carried on. Protesters banged pots, others whistled, and many held up their fists as they blocked traffic from passing through. The protesters marched to the corner of Côte-Saint-Luc Road and West Hill Avenue where the shooting took place.
Several people placed bouquets of flowers at the spot where Matthews was killed. One man said he picked flowers from his garden.
“It’s Montreal standing up to injustice,” Egbert Gaye told The Concordian. Gaye is the founder of Community Contact, a newspaper that covers Black and Caribbean issues in Quebec.
“Police have a weak point in dealing with two things: Black people and mental health,” said Gaye.
The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), an internal provincial organization that conducts independent investigations when someone is seriously injured or shot by police, is still investigating the death.
Photographs by Fenn Mayes