Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Some things we read about or see on television and we think, ah, they would never happen to us, or who ever was involved, deserved it.

I confess that I had thoughts like that when I saw Rodney King being beaten by four white police officers in Los Angeles more than a decade ago.

Well, I think differently now because a similar incident -not so much in scope and scale- happened closer to home.

Last month a Zimbabwean friend of mine found himself on the receiving end of two white Toronto police officers’ batons and booted feet, for trumped up charges, so he claims.

The case is now in court but my friend gave me permission to write about it as long as I do not reveal his name.

According to him, on the eve of Canada Day he received a call from his sister in the US about a family emergency back in Zimbabwe. He had to get in touch with the family rather urgently and he needed a long distance phone card to do that.

It was around midnight but he figured he could dash to the nearest convenience store and buy a card right then and so he went out, bought the card and started back to his apartment.

“I was walking along this lane when two people, a man and a woman, approached me rather aggressively. I tried to avoid them but they kept coming my way until I almost bumped into them. To avoid that I pushed the woman, who was closest to me, aside and passed them,” he said.

The couple turned to follow accusing him of assaulting the woman. Just then, a police car came round the corner and he flagged it down to seek protection from the increasingly aggressive couple.

The police car stopped and two officers got out. One came over to my friend while the other officer approached the couple.

“I was still explaining to the officer what had happened when the other one came towards us and informed me and his partner that the couple had accused me of demanding drugs from them,” my friend said.

He claimed that the officers, who had already released the couple before hearing his side of the story, started beating him up and kicking him. They looked at his identification papers and when they realized he was a refugee, they increased the beating.

‘What do you want in my country?’ one officer is said to have asked repeatedly as the other one added that they would make sure my friend was sent back to Zimbabwe.

When they were done, the officers called for an ambulance and the paramedics treated the guy right there but left him with the officers who then took him “downtown” for booking.

“At the station they claimed that I had resisted being arrested and they had to use force that was why I had cuts on my face and other places,” he told me.

He was charged with assault with intent to buy drugs and he spent the long Canada Day weekend in the slammer. He has a lawyer and his case is going through the court process.

Watch this space for updates to the case.


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