Winnipeggers gathered in the cold outside of the Winnipeg Police Headquarters Friday morning to demand justice after a police shooting left a newcomer to Canada dead.
Machuar Madut, 43, was shot and killed in his apartment last Saturday after a confrontation with police. Madut was South Sudanese and community members say he had struggled with mental health issues.
Madut had come to Canada from Sudan with his family in 2003.
About a hundred people were present at the rally, some holding signs and some wearing shirts with Madut’s face and name printed.
The gathering was hosted by the Council of South Sudanese Community of Manitoba Inc. and Black Space Winnipeg. Speakers and the crowd chanted “Black lives matter” and “We want justice.”
Black Space Winnipeg founder and president Alexa Potashnik said the gathering was organized to send a message to Winnipeg police.
“We’re demanding answers and justice,” she said in an interview.
“We have no information, the articles that are coming out online are sketchy, we don’t know all of the details, and we need answers to know what actually happened so we can get justice for Machuar’s life.”
This was the third police-involved shooting of 2019.
Organizers at the rally said they want an independent investigation into the shooting and for police to publicly identify the officer who killed Madut.
“These things don’t happen only in the United States of America, these things happen on the streets of Winnipeg,” rally organizer Sandy Deng said.
Women’s Health Clinic executive director Nadine Sookermany connected the shooting to incidents of race-based brutality happening across the border – particularly the case of Trayvon Martin, an African-American 17-year-old who was shot and killed while walking through a Florida neighbourhood. The man who shot him was eventually found not guilty.
“Seven years ago, almost to the day, Trayvon Martin was shot,” she said at the rally.
“Seven years ago, and nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. And so I think it’s important that we make the connections between race, immigration, language and all of the barriers that Machuar experienced here in this city. And the Winnipeg Police do not understand.”
Potashnik said Madut’s death could have been avoided, and that police had acted on “the manifestation of anti-blackness.”
“If they saw him as a threat, why did they see him as a threat?” she said.
“We have to ask these questions. There could have been a million other scenarios they could have done, but the first thing that they did was use excessive force. And that’s why we’re here to say that that’s not right.”