Hundreds march in downtown Toronto to call for abolition of prison system

TORONTO — Hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of downtown Toronto Saturday night, calling for the abolition of the prison system.

Called “A March for Prison Abolition,” the protest started at Bellevue Square Park at 8 p.m. and ended at Yonge and Dundas Square.

Protesters carried signs and chanted “no justice, no peace,” “abolish the police,” and “Black lives they matter here” as they marched along Dundas Street. The group also made a stop at 52 Division.

Downtown protest

The march was organized by Not Another Black Life in collaboration with other organizations, including the Toronto Prisoner’s Rights Project, Palestinian Youth Movement, Keep Your Rent Toronto, and Climate Justice Toronto.

In a social media post days before the march, the group said, “emancipation isn’t real until the systems that oppress us are abolished.”

“Our ancestors abolished slavery, we will abolish the prison industrial complex.”

August 1 is Emancipation Day, which marks the end of slavery in Canada. The group is calling for the federal government to proclaim Emancipation Day as a national holiday.

Earlier in the day, another group of protesters filled the streets of downtown Toronto to remember the historic day.

Hundreds called for an end to systemic racism in policing, the justice system, child welfare, education and healthcare.

“We want to ensure that systemic, institutionalized racism in Canada is dismantled so all people can live free,” Bishop Ransford Jones of Destiny Gospel Centre said. “We must use our freedom to ensure our freedom.”

The group made several stops, including at the Children’s Aid Society and the Toronto Police Headquarters.

“We need to look structurally into the frameworks of discrimination and racism that are impacting us across the board,” said Yvette Blackburn of the Global Jamaican Diaspora Council.

The group Remember the 400 also held a rally at Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday, calling for the month of August to be officially recognized as Freedom Month.

– with files from CTV Toronto’s Mike Walker

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