Northern students protest peer’s arrest

A group of Northern SS students outraged by the recent arrest of a peer took to the streets on Oct. 22, calling for the removal of the police presence in their hallowed halls.

About 80 students holding banners gathered in front of the school during the lunch hour, shouting “Northern says no!” and “What’s the justification?”

Close to 150 students watched from the sidelines as the scene unfolded.

The catalyst for their protest occurred Oct. 2, when a 16-year-old Northern student was arrested by the school’s uniformed officer, Constable Syed Ali Moosvi.

Police say he approached the student to see the teen’s school ID card and the student did not cooperate, leading to his arrest. The incident was caught on camera and posted on YouTube.

While authorities say the officer was doing his job, protesting students say the incident shows the cop program causes problems rather than preventing them.

Protest organizers and Northern students Max Naylor and Willie Wilson said they were calling for an open discussion with the community about the police presence in their school.

“(This incident) could have been solved with detention or being sent to the office,” said Naylor. “Instead, we have an arrest and criminal charges for something that could have been so easily resolved.”

St. Paul’s trustee Josh Matlow agreed the role of the officer should be clarified but said he felt a public protest was unnecessary.

Prior to the protest, he said the school officer program was being reviewed and he’s willing to hold a public forum about the issue that would include the students.

Matlow described the arrest as an isolated incident and said the student’s arrest was justified because he was provoking the officer.

Grade 11 Northern student Jaigan Mckenley said he witnessed the arrest and is friends with the accused student.

Mckenley admitted both the student and the officer could have prevented the arrest but, he said, he thinks officers are ill-equipped to work with youth.

“The officer was out of line in his duties,” Mckenley said. “If the cop was not there, this would not have happened.”

However, not every student at the school was onside with the protest.

Watching from across the street, grade 10 student Raymil Tiu said he found the protest ridiculous. He supports the cop-in-school program and said some have misrepresented the video of the arrest, as it only shows the officer making the arrest but not why he had to do it.

Former Toronto mayor John Sewell, who runs the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, also spoke at the protest. A vocal opponent to police presence in schools, Sewell said he wants to have a public debate with the school board. The coalition raises concerns regarding policing measures to the police services board and city council.

“There’s no good reason to have police in schools and it changes the school’s culture immensely,” he said.

The school resource officer initiative was adopted by the board last year in an effort to bridge the gap between police and youth. About 20 schools use the program.

“They aren’t security guards,” Matlow said. “It’s for students to get to know the officers as well-intentioned adults who are there to help them.”

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Posted: Oct 26 2009 12:07 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto