Protesters call for police accountability and changes to hate crime laws

Protestors gathered outside Edmonton police headquarters condemning comments they say add insult to injury.

Dozens of people attended a socially distanced rally Saturday to voice their opposition to comments Police Chief Dale McFee made during a media update on Thursday regarding the assault of 14-year-old Pazo last month.

READ MORE: Family call for full police investigation after 14-year-old boy assaulted on school grounds

McFee said that EPS hate crimes and violent extremism units found no indication the assault resulted because of race. Instead, the police chief said it was a “consensual schoolyard fight.”

“It was not a consensual fight,” Haruun Ali, a community advocate and candidate running for Edmonton’s Ward Papastew in the upcoming municipal election, told CTV News Edmonton in an interview.

“It was a brutal assault that took place as the boy was trying to come home from school,” he added.

Ali said he found the entire press conference difficult to watch.

“He has broken the trust with the community,” Ali shared.

“The way that (fixing trust) starts is not by going onto TV and saying that this is a ‘consensual schoolyard fight,’” he said. “The way to go here, is to sit down with Pazo’s mother or bring someone that speaks her language and actually have a conversation.

“Instead of… victim blaming Pazo, we should be looking at supporting everyone here – even the youth that were involved in the brutal assault. They need the support of the community and they need to understand why their actions were wrong.”

Many protesters are not just angry over the police chief’s comments but the way the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) is handling the case.

Nathalie Ykwankie, a local nurse who attended the rally alongside her two daughters, questioned the legal definition of a hate crime.

“To say that although racial slurs were used but this is not considered a hate crime, then I wonder what’s considered a hate crime?” she asked.

Tiera Williams, one of the founder of A Fight for Equity, agreed and said the incident should still be considered a hate crime.

“It’s hateful and it’s a crime,” she said. “It’s downplaying the situation.”

“We are just here to ask for accountability,” Williams added. “If it wasn’t racist there would not have been racial slurs used in the attack.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Touria Izri