Toronto man says lack of police response to alleged assault racially motivated
Crescent Town's Mark Austin says Toronto police failed to properly investigate an alleged assault committed against him and his partner Candace Zinkweg - all because he's Black.
On June 25, the couple was walking their dog at Dentonia Park in East York when two white people - a man and what appeared to be his girlfriend - reportedly knocked Zinkweg to the ground and kicked her in the head. Austin said his partner lost consciousness, was taken to hospital by paramedics, and diagnosed with a concussion.
During the incident, Austin said he was also violently assaulted by a second white man and subject to racist abuse and threats of future violence, including death.
“I was called n-. I was threatened with gun violence,” he told toronto.com Friday afternoon.
Austin, who called 911 for help, said Toronto police showed up about 30 minutes later, but failed to take the matter seriously, arrested no one, and told him the whole thing was a case of “he said/she said.”
“The police came. They did nothing,” said Austin, who said he does not know the three men involved in the incident, but has since learned some of them likely live in the same apartment complex as they do.
“I was made to be the assailant. My partner was the victim and she was forgotten. ... They made this about me, a Black guy. ... They're blaming me.”
Toronto police have yet to respond to requests for comment.
Frustrated and exasperated, Austin, who works at the University of Toronto as a health and safety coordinator with United Steelworkers, Local 1998, reached out to his union colleagues for support.
The United Steelworkers (USW) Toronto Area Council, the Black Action Defence Committee, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and Toronto East Anti-Hate Mobilization came forward to help and have co-organized a Monday, July 6 protest to "demand that police immediately lay charges on the assailants, and publicly apologize for their shocking inaction in the face of a clear case of violent assault, racist abuse and ongoing threats to this couple."
The rally will begin at noon outside 55 Division, 101 Coxwell Ave. at Dundas Street East.
“Obviously, the union was shocked to find out what happened,” said Michelle Robidoux of the USW Toronto Area Council in an interview with toronto.com.
“What happened to Mark and Candace is clearly violent and racist. Mark is facing threats and they feel unsafe in their own building.”
Robidoux, who called the matter a “perfect example of systemic racism”, said the police do not take matters seriously when Black people are involved and often treat them like criminals.
“We want the police to lay charges against these assailants and we want them to apologize for the way Mark and Candace were treated,” she said.
Today, Marty Warren, USW’s Ontario director, wrote a letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ward 19 City Coun. Brad Bradford, and the Toronto Police Services Board in response to the alleged racist attack.
In the letter, Warren outlined three immediate demands:
1. Investigate this case and press charges against the assailants;
2. Recognize the racial profiling that happened in this incident wherein Mark was assumed equally guilty as the attacker;
3. Develop, with input from community, a robust and public plan for addressing racism within the Toronto Police Service and the prevalence of racism around the city. Efforts to date have fallen far short.
“At a time where there is increased scrutiny on police forces across North America and on systemic racism within government and society at large, it is urgently necessary that the Toronto Police Services Board take every measure possible to address the ongoing racist treatment of Torontonians, particularly Black residents,” Warren wrote.
“I am also calling on Toronto City Council to lead the way for the country in tackling racism within the city. We know this is not an isolated incident and we need leadership from government now. Inaction is emboldening racism and racist violence and doing nothing is tantamount to complicity.”