The January 5 fatal police shooting of a clearly distressed man in Vancouver prompts this rattling question.
by Mildred German
Unceded Territories | As the new year 2021 unfolds, news of a 37-year old man in clear mental distress was reported fatally shot by Vancouver Police in the Vancouver Downtown EastSide (DTES) on Tuesday, January 5, 2020. Police say they had received reports of a “sword-wielding” man chasing people around in the intersection of Princess Ave and East Hastings—the block of where the transitional housing Grace Mansion, operated by the Salvation Army is located.
“There has to be a better way,” said Meenakshi Mannoe via The Tyee. Mannoe is a criminal justice campaigner for Pivot Legal.
Released video footage of the violent incident shows a clearly distressed, injured, completely unclothed, wandering man carrying an “unidentified object” over his shoulder running head first into a glass door, shot to death by the police. Witnesses who have come forward shared that the distressed naked man was yelling “She doesn’t love me anymore!” prior to the shooting. In addition, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) itself reports the man had also already suffered multiple injuries before the police arrived.
Yet, “The man was subsequently shot by police,” VPD spokesperson Tania Visintin wrote in a press release, noting “Reports came in that this man was chasing people with the weapon and using it in an aggressive and threatening manner.”
However, Mannoe has pointed out, “Crisis and chaos are not unusual in the Downtown EastSide, it’s something the police should be prepared for if they are responding to calls. You can safely assume that people are experiencing marginalised health, that they’re experiencing mental health issues, that they’re being impacted by unsafe and toxic drug supply.”
Three Gunshots Were Heard. Grassroots Calls To End Police Brutality.
In response, grassroots advocacy group Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) released a statement on January 7. The group questions, “with a taser, baton, and pepper spray…why did officers choose not to use ‘less-than-lethal’ means to disarm the man”?
The VPD did not identify the 37-year old victim.
VANDU has asked for the DTES residents to provide witness accounts of the January 5 police shooting, to help identify the victim, and to speak his name.
Located at 380 East Hastings, VANDU is organizing a vigil and march on January 12, at 1:30pm, entitled, “WHO’S NEXT? DTES Community Vigil for Man Murdered by VPD”. This event will be held at VANDU’s office, a few blocks away from the scene of the fatal police shooting.
VANDU, since 1998, has long committed to ensure drug users have a voice, and to tackle the issues affecting them. More information on the group can be found on their website, www.vandu.org.
Filipinos Are Faced Too With The Ongoing Notoriety of the War on Drugs
Even before Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, the Philippines has been long plagued with drug abuse and trafficking in the country. The Duterte government has initially claimed there are about 4 million drug users in the Philippines to justify the War on Drug campaign.
However, the Philippines’ War on Drugs has prompted criticism from numerous human rights groups in the Philippines and globally due to the country’s records of over 30,000 extrajudicial killings (EJKs). President Duterte has been facing heavy criticism globally, including from the United Nations (UN).
Meanwhile, here in Canada, a year-end December 30, 2020 report by Global News has exposed that 40% of Canadians have faced mental health, addiction, or alcohol issues in some form over the past year. According to this report, “the younger people are less likely to say that they are doing well in this circumstance.” https://globalnews.ca/news/7544244/coronavirus-addiction-mental-health-ipsos-poll/?utm_medium=Facebook&utm_source=GlobalBC&fbclid=IwAR3HIFjHeqYYLJGHXGds5-7QIwaMaY3P83obupYzyQ19OOxKRQ7PRPm2mAM
Rather, the January 5 fatal police shooting of the distressed man in Vancouver, exposes the worsening mental health crises, public health crises, and intensifying police brutality amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather than compassionately treating mental distresses as a public health issue, the police nowadays execute, and our health systems greatly fail in tackling these crises. All these highlight where our public money is being spent, and how governments condone police brutality.
Lastly, how are we supposed to help the mentally distressed, if they are being killed? How are we supposed to save our youth with our own community’s stigma on mental health and addiction? Noteworthy, these stigmas demonise, isolate, harm, and kill.