Photo Essay
4 min

A summer of protest

All around the world, people are taking to the streets in demonstrations against systemic racism and police violence. In Toronto, photojournalist Nick Lachance has been documenting the resistance movement

A protester raises a fist at the Not Another Black Life protest, Saturday May, 30.
Credit: Nick Lachance

Throughout much of this past spring, cities across North America looked largely deserted as physical distancing measures took effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25, and protesters filled the streets. Two days after Floyd’s killing, Regis Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death during an encounter with Toronto police. A demonstration on May 30 was called by the Toronto activist group Not Another Black Life to protest police violence against Black, Indigenous and other people of colour and the deaths of Korchinski-Paquet, Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Chantel Moore, D’Andre Campbell and many others.

A police officer ignores a protester holding a sign stating
Credit: Nick Lachance

Thousands of Torontonians took to the streets to peacefully demand an open investigation into the death of Korchinski-Paquet, who died on May 27 after falling from the 24th floor of her apartment building while Toronto police were responding to a 911 call.

Protesters are seen reflected in the windows of the ROM.
Credit: Nick Lachance

Korchinski-Paquet, who was Black and Indigenous, died after her family called police due to a domestic incident.

The protest ended up at police headquarters on College Street.
Credit: Nick Lachance

Followed by a heavy police presence, the protest wove from Christie Pitts Park, across Bloor Street, and ended in front of police headquarters on College Street.

A protester holds up her phone to a police officer, showing him an image of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.
Credit: Nick Lachance

A smaller group of protesters stayed in front of police headquarters to vent their frustrations. One protester holds up a photo of Korchinski-Paquet to a Toronto police officer.

Not Another Black Life led a sit-in on June 19.
Credit: Nick Lachance

On June 19, Not Another Black Life led a sit-in that stretched from police headquarters on College Street, down Bay, ending in front of Toronto City Hall. The date is celebrated as Juneteenth throughout the U.S. and commemorates the end of slavery.

The sit-stretched down Bay Street, from College to Queen.
Credit: Nick Lachance

The sit-in focused around calls for the Toronto Police Service to be abolished.

Chalk marker helped protesters observe physical distancing.
Credit: Nick Lachance

The event embraced physical distancing efforts: Chalk markers were placed along the street as the sit-in moved away from College down Bay Street.

Thousands of people occupied the all of Bay Street, from College to Queen, sitting in physically distanced groups.
Credit: Nick Lachance

Thousands of people occupied all of Bay Street, from College to Queen, sitting in physically distanced groups.

Two men dance during the sit-in.
Credit: Nick Lachance

Speakers, poetry readings and dancing propelled the sit-in toward City Hall.

A crowd seated in a circle listen to speakers.
Credit: Nick Lachance

As the protest came to an end, organizers read aloud the names of many Black, Indigenous and other people of colour who have been killed by police in Canada in recent years.

Activist and journalist Desmond Cole spoke at the Abolish Police in Canada: Pride Rally and Teach-in on June 28
Credit: Nick Lachance

The Abolish Police in Canada: Pride Rally and Teach-In took place on June 28 at Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall. The event was organized by the No Pride in Policing Coalition, a group that formed to support the demands raised by Black Lives Matter Toronto after that group’s appearances at Pride in 2016 and 2017. Activist and journalist Desmond Cole spoke at the event.

Among a crowd of protesters keeping a lot of space between them, one person is seen holding up a sign stating,
Credit: Nick Lachance

The No Pride in Policing Coalition called for an immediate 50-percent cut to the Toronto police budget as a first step toward abolishing the police.

Credit: Nick Lachance

Attendees were asked to write what they learned from speakers, or hoped for, on the ground in chalk.

Harm reduction worker and community activist Zoe Dodd addresses the crowd at Nathan Phillips Square.
Credit: Nick Lachance

Harm-reduction worker and community activist Zoë Dodd spoke about the negative effects of policing on people dealing with addiction issues.

Activists hoist a giant tarp with the word Tkaronto on it over the Toronto sign in front of City Hall.
Credit: Nick Lachance

AIR (Afro-Indigenous Rising) protesters placed a tarp with the word “Tkaronto” over the Toronto sign in front of City Hall. Tkaronto is a Mohawk word meaning “where there are trees standing in the water,” and is considered the original name of Toronto.

Among the protesters, visible signs state
Credit: Nick Lachance

Approximately 2,000 people came out in the sweltering heat to attend the Pride Rally and  Teach-In.

Cops sit underneath the ramp at City Hall on which in chalk is written phrases like
Credit: Nick Lachance

Police officers hovered around the edges of Nathan Phillips Square throughout the afternoon.

People sit in small groups in Nathan Phillips Square with the arches from the fountain and Old City Hall visible.
Credit: Nick Lachance

Over six hours of speeches, Nathan Phillips Square gradually transformed from a blank slate to a canvas filled with people and their hopes for a better city.

A lone Pride flag hangs off a balcony in the sunset, June 28.
Credit: Nick Lachance

In Toronto, LGBTQ2 folks play a huge role in these movements fighting against racism and police violence. The teach-in took place on what would have been Pride Day but, of course, the big parade and celebration were cancelled due to COVID-19. A few blocks away from the teach-in, in the Gay Village, located in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, small groups of queer and trans folk gathered to mark the occasion, while a lone Pride flag hung off a balcony in the sunset.