Thousands of marchers donned face masks to protest against anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism on Saturday afternoon in response to the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.
As the crowd moved through the city, marchers shouted “Justice for Regis” and “Black lives matter.” The rally began at 2 pm at Christie Pits and was originally supposed to end at Queen’s Park, but protestors instead made their way to Toronto Police headquarters at College and Bay.
The event was organized by Not Another Black Life after Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black woman, plummeted 24 storeys to her death from her High Park apartment while police were in her home on Wednesday.
In a statement, her family said they were not involved in the planning or organizing of the protest.
“The family is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, and to the organizer’s of today’s event for bringing attention to this very serious matter,” the statement reads. “The family asks that anyone attending today’s event observe social distancing by-laws to ensure those attending are safe and remain peaceful in honour of Regis.”
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the provincial watchdog charged with investigating serious incidents involving police, is reviewing the circumstances surrounding Korchinski-Paquet’s death.
The case has raised issues around police conduct and the need for mental support services. Family members have said Korchinski-Paquet was having a crisis and called police for help.
“I asked police yesterday if they could take my daughter to CAMH [the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health], and my daughter ended up dead,” Korchiniski-Paquet’s mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, told reporters during a news conference on Thursday.
The family is now seeking answers as to how and why the tragedy occurred with law enforcement present.
According to police Chief Mark Saunders, officers were responding to three calls that mentioned epilepsy, assault and a knife.
The family has since said “that when police arrived and spoke with Regis, Claudette and Reece, there was no knife present and no assault taking place. The family strongly believes that Regis’ death could have been prevented.”
The organizers tweeted on Saturday that today’s march “is for Regis, for every known and unknown black and indigenous life lost to police brutality and white supremacy, for the targeted, for the unheard. For the ancestors.”
Not Another Black Life also asked all protesters to wear masks and requested that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms stay home. Protesters were also told to march in groups of five or less and maintain a distance of six feet from other groups.
According to the event page, limited masks, gloves and hand sanitizer and social distancing pool noodles would be provided, but people taking part were asked to bring their own supplies as well.
A Justice For Regis GoFundMe page set up on Thursday has collected over $176,000 as of Saturday.
Not Another Black Life started up two days ago in the wake of mass protests across the United States over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. On Friday, a former Minneapolis police officer was charged with murder in connection with his death.
Protests have gripped several U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles, in recent days. Some of those protests erupted into violence on Friday night amid reports on social media of aggressive police tactics and instigators. In Louisville, protesters also surrounded an officer separated from his squad to offer protection.
This story has been updated from its original version. With files from Kevin Ritchie.