Protest planned in Toronto over death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet
Activists dismayed by allegations of police involvement in the death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from the 24th-floor balcony of a Toronto apartment building on Wednesday evening, are starting to organize vigils and protests in honour of the young black woman.
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit announced late Wednesday night that they have opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Korchinski-Paquet's death, which occurred while Toronto Police officers were inside her apartment at 100 High Park Avenue.
The police watchdog agency says that officers "observed a woman on the balcony" while they were inside the 24th floor unit and that "a short time later, the woman fell from the balcony to the ground below" where she was pronounced deceased.
Heartbroken family members and witnesses, including the young woman's mother, brother and cousin, have since spoken out via social media to say that they believe Toronto Police officers pushed or threw Korchinski-Paquet from the balcony.
Yesterday, May 27th, Toronto Police murdered an afro-Indigenous woman. #JusticeForRegis #BlackLivesMatterTO #BlackLivesMatter— IndigenousXca - @bruksap (@IndigenousXca) May 28, 2020
Now, more than ever, is Indigenous-Black solidarity necessary. We need to DEMAND justice. This system is broken. https://t.co/EP8hFR65rX
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders issued a statement in response to these serious allegations Thursday morning, noting that he could not comment on the incident due to it being the subject of an active SIU investigation.
"We know this incident has caused a great deal of concern and our thoughts are with the family and the community," said Saunders, calling the situation "tragic."
"Let me be very clear that we want the facts as much as anyone. The Toronto Police Service is fully co-operating with the Special Investigations Unit."
Citizens are nonetheless demanding immediate justice and transparency from police and government officials.
Hopefully this will help those individuals who are wondering what next steps to take!!— Stephen Mensah (@StephenMensah_) May 28, 2020
SIGN THE PETITION AS WELL👇🏾👇🏾
LET’S TAKE ACTION!!✊🏾https://t.co/6h1X4j8v7N#JusticeForRegis pic.twitter.com/lNsNVDPyTz
"Regis Korchinski-Paquet was murdered by Toronto Police," reads a newly-created Change.org petition with nearly 9,000 signatures.
"Regardless of SIU being involved, we are trying to reach the attention of Mayor John Tory, MPP Bhutila Karpoche, and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders to commit to a transparent investigation and to hold the officers involved accountable in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet through firing and filing charges," the petition text continues.
"Please help us get justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet and her family!"
As news of the Toronto incident spreads, more and more people are coming forward to amplify these cries and call for action using the hashtag #JusticeForRegis on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Details for at least one peaceful protest are circulating on all three major social media platforms as of Thursday afternoon.
"TORONTO. WE ARE LIVE ON SATURDAY MAY 30TH @ 2PM," wrote a Twitter user sharing a poster for the event. "We are marching for Regis Korchinski-Paquet. This Afro-Indigenous women was pushed off her balcony in front of her mother by Toronto Police. Come out & show your support. Masks on!"
The deceased woman's cousin, who told reporters Wednesday night that Korchinski-Paquet, a devout Christian, would never jump willingly from the balcony, posted a message responding to reports of a protest on his own Instagram channel Thursday afternoon.
"There will be no protest for Regis, we are past that and don't want no one getting hurt or no riot to erupt. Please do not go out to protest," he wrote in an Instagram Stories post.
Organizers, however, say they have the full support of Korchinski-Paquet's mother to move forward with a peaceful protest event.
"There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding what's happening," wrote one. "We received video confirmation from Regis's mother telling us that she is okay with a protest. Her cousin just recently posted that they do not want people to get hurt. And that people shouldn't come out."
"This is meant to be a PEACEFUL protest, social distancing will be enforced," the organizer continued. "WE ARE MARCHING FOR HER AS WELL AS OTHER BLACK LIVES THAT WERE TAKEN AT THE HANDS OF THE POLICE."
Those who do not attend the protest but want to help Korchinski-Paquet's family get answers about what happened are encouraged by activists to contact their local City councillors, MPPs and other elected officials to demand a full, public inquiry into Regis's death.
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