Justice for Abdi coalition gathers ahead of high-profile trial of police officer

A high profile trial starts on Monday involving an Ottawa police officer charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault.

And Friday evening, family and community members gathered to remember the life of the man killed, Abdirahman Abdi.  The "Justice for Abdi" Coalition has taken on a life of its own, empowering many in this community to come together in a united front against what they believe is racism in the police force. 

And many of those same people will be anxiously watching the outcome of this trial.

Every time 15-year-old Hamza Mohamed walks into his apartment building on Hilda Avenue, he can't help but notice Abdirahman Abdi's name scrawled along the brick of the building  and remember, in vivid detail, what happened here day two and a half years ago.

“I remember it because it was a sad day,” says Mohamed.

37-year-old Abidraham Abdi died outside the building where he lived, after a violent confrontation with police. He had been fleeing from them. One of those officers, Cst. Daniel Montsion has been charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.  His trial starts on Monday.

“There was so much police cars blocking the route,” recalls Mohamed, “and I thought there was a fire. There was blood and I was wondering what was happening and his family was crying upstairs.”

Mohamed knew Abdi; he lived next door to him.

“He was a good guy,” he says.

Dahabo Ahmed-Omer knew only of his story but she says his death impacted her profoundly.

“He's changed my life fundamentally,” says Ahmed-Omer, with the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, “and so we've been working hard to make sure what happened to Abdi never happens again.”

Ahmed-Omer organized a vigil Friday evening outside the building Abdi died. 

Reverend Anthony Bailey was one of the speakers and a strident advocate of justice.

“We want to acknowledge some good has come of this,” Reverend Bailey told CTV Ottawa earlier Friday, “even as the family grieves but we want to be vigilant with respect to the trial and we are asking for there to be justice and sensitivity to the pain that has been bequeathed on the community.”

Reverend Bailey says some of the good involves being invited last year by the Ottawa Police to provide anti-black racism training to about 22 new police recruits, the first time he says that anti-black racism training was included in the race and diversity training

Cst. Montsion is being represented by high-profile lawyer Michael Edelson, who wouldn't comment today.  Neither would Lawrence Greenspon, who is representing Abdi's family in a $1.5 million lawsuit against the police force, the police chief and the officers involved.

In an email, Greenspon simply said,

"The family is not commenting leading up to or during the trial.  A civil action has been started and we will await the outcome of the criminal trial before proceeding with it."

Community members say they, too, will await the outcome of the trial but believe Abdi's death has already prompted a significant change in the way Ottawa police interact with so many in this city.