Hundreds of people gathered in Hintonburg on Friday evening to mark the anniversary of Abdirahman Abdi’s death.
The 37-year-old Somali-Canadian died after a violent arrest outside his apartment building at 55 Hilda St. on July 24, 2016.
Abdi’s death became a rallying point for activists across the country seeking police reform and an end to anti-Black racism — an issue that gained momentum and worldwide attention following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
“George Floyd, that was eight minutes and 46 seconds of his death that was recorded,” said Dahabo Ahmed-Omer from the Justice for Abdirahman coalition.
“Abdirahman’s death was recorded for 27-some minutes. And there were no life-saving measures that were given to him for about 11 to 12 minutes.”
Friday’s event also marked the end of Const. Daniel Montsion’s trial, which wrapped up on Wednesday.
The officer has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in connection to Abdi’s death. A judge is expected to render his decision in the case in mid-October.
Dahabo Ahmed-Omer from the Justice for Abdirahman coalition said not enough has changed since July 24, 2016, when Abdi’s family and neighbours witnessed his death. (Robyn Miller/CBC)
Like many members of Abdi’s family and the coalition, Ahmed-Omer regularly attended the proceedings, which she said was emotionally trying.
“It’s been such a long time that we’ve been waiting for this trial to end. And so we are relieved, but we are exhausted,” Ahmed-Omer said. “It’s a range of emotions right now.”
“A lot of sadness and we’re trying to heal as a community right now,” she added.
Still, the coalition seeks to ensure that Abdi’s legacy transcends the circumstances of his death.
Death led to awakening for community
Ahmed-Omer said Abdi’s passing has caused an awakening within the hearts and minds of Ottawans across the city.
Members of the coalition have created the Justice for Abdirahman Scholarship for Social Justice, which now has $10,000 in its pot.
The group also hopes to raise another $30,000 to fund an endowment in Abdi’s name.
“His legacy will live on in perpetuity. And so we are doing this work in his honour,” Ahmed-Omer said.
Even so, Ahmed-Omer stated not enough has changed since July 24, 2016, when many of Abdi’s family and neighbours witnessed his death.
She said the recent high-profile deaths and arrests of Black and Indigenous people, in Canada and the U.S., should act as a wake-up call for all.
“All these deaths are a representation of the system failing,” she said.
“Something’s got to change, and it [needs] to change now.”