June 5 would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. Would have been. On March 13, the 26-year-old EMT was killed by Louisville, KY police in her home as she slept, after they broke down her door in an attempted drug sting. (According to CNN, police said an unidentified man was shipping drugs to Taylor’s apartment to avoid detection and was using the apartment as his home address.) Police shot her eight times. Since her murder, Taylor’s family has filed a personal injury and wrongful death action against the three officers involved her killing—Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly—stating via a lawsuit that the actions of the officers “were made in bad faith, were performed with a corrupt motive, were outside the scope of the Defendants’ authority, were executed willfully and with the intent to harm, and were in violation of Breonna’s constitutional and statutory rights.” But, thus far, nothing has happened. And since her death in March, the United States and Canada have seen the deaths of several other BIPOC at the hands of police, including George Floyd and David McAtee in Minnesota and Louisville, respectively, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet—who died on May 27 after police were called to her house for medical help—and Chantel Moore—an Indigenous woman who was killed by police in Edmunston, NB on June 4 after they were called by her long-distance boyfriend to do a wellness check.
The brutal murder of Floyd, which was recorded and spread widely, has launched a movement for social justice and against police brutality across the world. This week, all four officers accused of his murder were charged, and now Americans and allies around the world are calling for justice for Taylor. On June 3, writer Cate Young started the #BirthdayForBreonna initiative, which outlines actionable items and ways to help fight for justice.
Ok! I finally have something concrete to share. Below is the official list of action items for this Friday’s #BirthdayForBreonna initiatives. Do as many as you can and share this widely so others can participate. Let’s make sure to #SayHerName. https://t.co/uJr5qPK2YA
— 🎓Cate Young 🌈🌟 (@battymamzelle) June 3, 2020
On what would have been her birthday, here’s what Canadians can do to help both Breonna Taylor as well as the women in our own country who are the victims of police brutality.
One of the simplest ways we as individuals can support the victims’ families and their search for justice is by engaging with and signing petitions. While online petitions can sometimes feel like a form of “slacktivism“—i.e. supporting a cause via social media involving little effort or commitment—the impacts of these online petitions can stretch beyond immediate results. As The Washington Post noted in a February 2017 article, petitions do work in terms of spreading awareness about issues and recruiting others to the cause. As well, they let lawmakers and those in positions of power know that there is support behind a specific issue and calls to action.
Change.org has a Justice for Breonna Taylor petition (with just under 4 million signatures!) that asks for charges to be filed against the officers involved in her killing, payment to her family for wrongful death, a re-assesment of the “no-knock” warrant used in her case and the appointment of appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Louisville Police Department. The petition is open to everyone, including Canadians, and it takes less than two minutes to sign.
And in Canada, there’s currently a petition calling for transparency in the Special Investigation Unit’s investigation into Korchinski-Paquet’s death.
Another way in which Canadians can help is by donating. In Taylor’s case, this can be either directly to the victim’s family or to the Louisville Community Bail Fund—where donations go towards bailing out protesters who have been on the ground fighting for justice for Taylor.
But don’t stop there. Either begin or continue to donate to organizations that help both the Black Lives Matter movement as well as Black communities on a larger scale. In the United States, the Loveland Foundation works to provide therapy and mental health services to the Black community, specifically Black women and girls. And in Canada, organizations like The Healing Collective have started a Black Mental Health Fund.
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Send an email to the people who can make change
Another non-monetary way to support these women is to email the individuals and offices in power. Young’s list of actionable items provides a fully scripted email in your mail app, addressed to the Kentucky Attorney General, Mayor and the Governor and asking them to look into Taylor’s death and lay charges against the officers involved. All users have to do is fill out the the fields with their name and location before sending.
Amplify the victim’s names and the voices of BIPOC online
While #BlackOutTuesday is over (and was controversial in its impact), everyone—and especially non-Black people—should continue to help amplify Black activists, voices and causes online. On June 5, share one of the many gorgeous and heartbreaking graphics of Taylor alongside the hashtags #SayHerName and #BirthdayForBreonna, in order to spread awareness of her case.
Young also urged readers to celebrate Taylor through art, making June 5 officially Breonna’s day. Paint a picture, sing a song, make a fun Tik Tok, just make sure her name and legacy is remembered.
And not just that, but amplify the voices and stories of the Canadian victims, too. In Canada, we often overlook stories of police brutality and racism that happen in our own backyard—measuring ourselves against our neighbours to the south and claiming that we’re somehow better. News flash: We’re not. And it’s important that we share Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Chantal Moore’s names and stories too, so their experiences aren’t erased or overlooked and, ultimately, so that justice can be served.
Educate yourself on police brutality against BIPOC women
It’s been a heavy few months for BIPOC when it comes to police brutality and violence (and, let’s be honest, this has been ongoing for generations—many people outside BIPOC communities are only just seeing or choosing to see it now). While much of the racism and brutality against BIPOC bodies has been aimed at men (a 2019 study found that over the course of a lifetime, Black men face a one in 1,000 risk of being killed during an encounter with police), it’s important to remember that BIPOC women are being victimized as well. #SayHerName arose out of the fact that many people online felt Taylor’s death—and the quest for justice–were being overlooked and forgotten. But it’s important to remember women like Taylor, Toronto’s Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Edmunston’s Chantel Moore and the countless other women in our country and in the States that are being murdered by police.
As important as it is to educate ourselves on police violence and racism in the United States, it’s also imperative that we educate ourselves on racism and police brutality in Canada. Because it exists. And in much the same way people are fighting for justice for Taylor, it’s important for Canadians to follow suit by contacting local officials and monetarily supporting organizations that combat police brutality and racism in Canada.
And on defunding the police
And, on top of contacting the pertinent officials, it’s important for Canadians to research what it truly means when people call to “defund the police.” While the meaning may differ based on who you ask, largely, defunding the police refers to scaling back police budgets, reallocating those funds to other public services. It also refers to dismantling the militarization of the police, and the exorbitant amount of money that goes into arming officers (funds that could be better spent elsewhere).
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Per the CBC, in Toronto the police service is the biggest item in the city’s massive $13.5-billion yearly operating budget. To put it in perspective: “Out of an average property tax bill of $3,020, the largest share—about $700—is allocated to police. That’s followed by about $520 for transit. Shelters and housing take up about $150 while about $60 goes to paramedic services.”
This massive budget may be due to the fact that, over the past several years, officers have been allocated to roles formerly held by social workers and health professionals, placed in schools and called out to help individuals suffering from mental health breaks. The idea of defunding the police would see resources taken from police services, individual officers duties scaled back to focus on violent crime, and see the removed funds placed into community supports or towards other services so that when someone is suffering from a mental health condition, there’s enough money, staff and training to have a mental health worker sent out to aid said person—and not a police officer with a gun.
— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) June 5, 2020
So on June 5—and every day after—read up and speak out. Because it’s the literal least we can do for our sisters.