Community responding

Update: Listen to the podcast

Tonight on Adamant Eve we’re bringing you a feature on the assault on Shannon Barry, the way the police have handled the case, and the community response.

Shannon was assaulted a few weeks ago while on her way home after celebrating a friend’s birthday. Shannon is a lesbian and the boy who attacked her – and the friends that were with him – were shouting homophobic slurs at Shannon and her friends before the attack. That experience was horrific enough, but the way the Edmonton Police Service handled the case has been criticized as victimizing Shannon all over again.

The officer who responded to the 911 call the night of the attack took names, but not witness statements, and didn’t offer Shannon his contact details – her friends had to ask for his card. He then failed to file a report within 24 hours, as required by EPS. In fact, it wasn’t until the next Thursday – the day after CBC broke the story – that a report on the incident was filed.

While Police Chief Mike Boyd offered Shannon a public apology the Saturday following the attack, it wasn’t until this week that EPS agreed to do an internal investigation, rather than a less formal review, into why the report wasn’t filed immediately.

The poor handling of this case provoked outrage in the city. Many people see this as yet another example of the police failing to protect the LGBTQ community. There has also been criticism of the LGBTQ Liaison Committee at EPS. Members of the Community Response Project have said the committee is “more aligned with the Edmonton Police Service’s public relations machine than it is with the members of our queer community“. The CRP points to the committee’s response to the case, including an open letter that referred to the assault as alleged, dismissed any possibility the case was a hate crime, and presented routine steps being taken by the police and crown prosecutors in the case as extraordinary measures.

This incident has also provoked discussion around policing and incarecation. The boy accused in the case is only 14 years old. Sending him to jail is not going to make things better. The CRP is also looking at ideas of alternative justice outside of policing.

One of the positive things to come out of this is they way the outrage has been channeled into action. Soon after the attack a Facebook group called The Community Response Project was created to give people a space to discuss ideas of how to respond. This led to in-real-life meetings, a campaign to complain to EPS about the lack of an internal investigation, a know your rights campaign, and on Monday, May 10th, the group will be hosting its first event, Justice Beyond Prisons, which will include a speakers panel and opportunity for discussion before the official Hate Crimes Awareness Day event at Enterprise Square.

For more information on the CRP and how to get involved, check out their Facebook page.

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