Taylor McNallie and Adora Nwofor — two prominent Black activists in Calgary, Alberta, who have been fighting racism and police violence for many years — are now being systematically targeted by the Calgary Police Service (CPS) through a process of “charge stacking” that is designed to repress their organizing.
This targeting started in the summer of 2021, when Taylor was charged seven times after a two-week protest outside the Calgary Courts Centre to demand that CPS officer Alex Dunn get fired for his violent attack on Dalia Kafi, a Black woman, in 2017. Taylor and other protesters faced constant harassment during this sustained action, including from Elena Cunningham, an off-duty sheriff, who stole Taylor’s phone. This December, Taylor was sentenced to 30 days in jail — to be served on weekends starting in January — while CPS Alex Dunn, who was recently fired from the force, gets to serve his 30-day sentence via house arrest.
The second major round of charge stacking happened in response to Taylor and Adora’s involvement in community defence efforts against an anti-trans attack on a Calgary high school in May 2023, which included far-right bullies travelling from Ontario to threaten trans students. Adora and Taylor helped to physically protect the schoolyard from being rushed by the anti-trans aggressors. In reaction to this community defence, the CPS charged both Taylor and Adora with a wide and egregious range of offences, including “sexual assault,” and explicitly slandered their actions as motivated by “hate.” Most recently, in June 2023, Adora was charged with another “hate crime” while helping another Black woman retrieve their child’s belongings from a Catholic school; two weeks after the arrest, the charge was dropped by the Crown and attributed to a “clerical error.”
This charge stacking is highly deliberate and clearly intended to punish Taylor and Adora for their courageous and effective work to protect communities from harm. In response, a campaign called “Stop the Stack YYC” has been started to raise consciousness about the legal attacks against them and what people can do to help. In this Q&A, Winnipeg Police Cause Harm spoke with Taylor and Adora about the situation that they’re facing.
To start with, what is charge stacking?
Taylor: It’s a tactic that’s been used by police numerous times. Basically, they try to use as many charges as possible against an individual to see what sticks and lands. A great example is the courthouse protest, which I was just sentenced for. I ended up with seven charges from that. Most of them are bogus. We were there for 14 days. And one of the charges is from the very first or second day that we were there. Now, we are outside the courthouse and there are police everywhere. If I’m doing something illegal and something is wrong, they had every opportunity to come and arrest and charge me. But they waited until the very end to lay all of these charges, where four of them ended up being dropped anyway.
A lot of them are just ridiculous charges, knowing that they might not even see a day in court, or will end up being dropped anyway. But when you stack them all together, it makes them all look a lot worse. And it’s also helped to really highlight one specifically: in this situation, it was the so-called “assault” with Elena (the off-duty sheriff) with a “weapon.” That, and two other charges, ended up sticking. It really is a way to back people into a corner or force people into plea deals, which is another situation that just happened with me, with another batch of charges as well. So knowing they’re probably not going to get these ones dropped or you have to take the chance of going before a judge and the judge deciding. Basically, you take a chance and weigh the pros and cons of sitting in front of a judge and what this old white man with a bunch of racist biases thinks of all of this. Or do I just take the L and be like “OK, well I guess I’ll take guilty for this one, knowing that’s the best outcome for me.”
Adora: When Taylor says tactic, it is planned. The police are making a plan. Their goal is to have whomever — at this moment it’s Taylor, enemy #1, and me, enemy #2 — in jail. Or to financially drain us. Or to emotionally drain us. It is harassment. They are planning with people in the community.
For instance, with the Elena situation at the Calgary Courts Centre, there were multiple issues of people attacking us, and none of those people have been charged. So we know that this is a tactic to harass us and to interrupt the things that we’re doing to make change in the world. It’s not organic, like if I’m riding my bike and somebody turns a corner, and hits me and the police charge them. These are things that they’re planning. It’s a tactic, and they’re going out of their way to do this. Resources are being used to plan to have people in the justice system in a way that is difficult for them to separate themselves from.
Why is the Calgary Police going after the both of you specifically?
Adora: For me, I told the police that they’re slave-catchers, and they didn’t believe me. And then I told them that they didn’t know their history, and they didn’t believe me. And I was right. And everything they have done, I keep telling them, and I’m right. They didn’t expect that.
I created a security team for a protest and was like “police are not welcome here if they’re coming as police, and will tell you ‘no.’” And we were very effective. We make a lot of impact and the community can see it directly. Taylor led us to shut down the street on 17th Avenue when they were doing the “Freedom Marches.” Quite frankly, that was eight months to a year and the police couldn’t get them to stop.
The police don’t want to protect Black women. They want to make an example of us because we are making impacts. They don’t want people to protest. And let me tell you, since 2017, when I led the Women’s March — which at that point was the biggest protest in Calgary’s history — I don’t know if anybody’s noticed but there seems to be a whole lot more protesting since then. Since it was impactful and caused a little irritation and discomfort, they can’t take it.
None of this is new. The police have been doing this but people have not been talking about it. People have not felt safe to talk about it. People have lost everything if they have talked about it.
Taylor: All of that. Police have tactics and we have our tactics. And they see that. When we talk about the security: having our own security is not even a tactic, that is just for fucking safety. Immediately in 2020, I know that Adora and I weren't close in organizing at that point together, but I know the things that I was organizing, the first thing we did was have our own security team with no police. That meant we had weeks of meetings with security teams to plan where the cars are going to go, where the people are going to stand, who’s in this position, who’s doing that. Not only so that we don’t have police doing these things but also to teach people ways to do it themselves. Some people are still in the mindset, depending on where they are in their abolitionist journey, that we “need police to protect us” and: “How are we going to stand on the road? What about all the cars?” So it’s like, “this is a framework in how that can happen.” It’s not even just the tactics but it’s the education, it’s the teaching of people, it’s the empowering of people. That situation on 17th, where Adora and I showed up and shut that down, we also empowered people in that community to do the same and take those actions.
Police don’t like that. They don’t want to see people empowered. They don’t want to see people doing things for themselves. And also the fact that a lot of people, including Black people, have kind of stopped doing what they were doing in the summer of 2020. We are in Calgary, Alberta. And Adora and I are two of the only Black women who remain in this so-called spotlight, not because we have put ourselves here, not because we’re out here for looking for clout and this is the life I’ve asked to live, but that’s literally just what happens when we’re in this climate and in this environment. It’s easy to target us in that way.
When did the both of you start to face this tactic of harassment and intimidation through charge stacking?
Adora: Taylor, I will say right off the bat that the tactics that they used with me were slightly different, because they were trying to get me charged and agitate me, and I’m an expert-level de-escalator.
This was well before 2020. To talk about the very first big protest that I did: the Women’s March wanted to work with police, and at that point in time I was like “I’m not saying anything to them, I came into this, let’s see what happens.” And the police escorted everybody but me. I noticed that. And within the community, too, you could see that the media was paying less and less attention to what I was saying and not highlighting me. I’m the grand marshall and organizer of this thing and there’s no picture or mention of me for many years. I already knew that was happening. But they would surround me as I was protesting in 2020 and beyond to try and agitate or lash out. That happens often: time and time and time again.
When we hit the protest at the Calgary Courts Centre, we noticed. We noticed attack after attack after attack. And my charges did not start until June of this year. And they came out swinging, because they started with the “hate crime.” And you cannot be charged for a hate crime in Canada. And it’s a lie, and that’s all I’m going to say about that part.
Taylor: My first charge was in 2020, with the RCMP. Obviously, then, it was just a tactic of “let’s scare these people away from doing this. Because in 2020 I had started organizing in rural Alberta as that’s where I grew up. New to activism, naive me had an idea that it was probably going to be a little bit dangerous to go to rural Alberta and talk about white supremacy and racism. Fucking bad idea! I mean, in the grand scheme of things, good idea — there’s a lot of good that came out of it — but also bad idea.
At that point, I think it was just a tactic to like “shut her the fuck up.” Because what actually ended up happening, even with that charge, because it was literally a person who is a white supremacist and part of a hate group that had charged me instead of this person. People who showed up with Confederate flags, horns blaring, pick-up trucks coming down the street: it’s like the 1930s in the American South. This was the scene. And the Crown in Red Deer is actually a Black woman, and she refused to do anything further on it and passed it over to somebody. Once it was passed over, that charge was dropped.
The next charges for me didn’t come until the courthouse protests. I don’t know if I’ve seen a prolonged protest in Calgary like that, where Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, we were outside in the middle of downtown, at the courthouse, with a tent, with speakers, we had food, coffee, harm reduction, all of the things for 14 days. And they were watching us. They were watching us from the window. When you see the footage of what was used against me in court, the moment that something happened, that camera is moving and zooming into the situation. They watched us be attacked, they watched food get thrown at us, they’ve seen these things happen. And not once did a sheriff come out to protect us. But the moment a white person seemed to be in distress, they came out immediately. So that’s when that started. That was August 2021.
Then I was sued for defamation by a Calgary Police officer in December of 2021. Then I was sued again by another Calgary Police officer in August 2022. Then I was charged with five charges in regards to a club incident here in September of 2022. That one is unfortunate in so many ways, but the fact that it had nothing to do with protesting or nothing to do in that sense, every police officer in the city knows of me. So the moment somebody called the police in this situation, they already know who I am and knew who was involved and went after anything they could. And they did. And that’s where I took a plea deal in that situation. Then in May of this year I was charged again with four different charges, one of them being a “sexual assault” when Josh Alexander and other white nationalists travelled from Ontario to come to Alberta and protest outside of high schools. Then last week I was served with another defamation cease and desist from another Calgary police officer.
It’s just ongoing and before yesterday I already knew and had already been speaking about that at some point one of these situations will put me in jail. And especially in how the processes go: the processes between having to go give a DNA sample, the processes of having to check in with probation, if you’re a minute late at jail, all of these things work against you and set you up for failure. It’ll be interesting to see what 2024 is going to be like for me.
How has this process impacted the both of you personally?
Taylor: In all ways. Because it’s not even just police harassment. The moment something happens and there’s an article released, that is sent in white supremacist spaces all across North America. Usually, something is posted or released and it’s days and weeks of harassment on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, my emails. I’ve had people go through my website to sign up for one-on-one chats with me but it’s n***** n***** @ gmail.com. So every single tactic and aspect in that way.
I got a dog in 2022 for protection at home, and I don’t walk my dog in my own neighbourhood because people know who I am and I don't want them knowing where I live. I literally have to take her to another neighbourhood. I've had people walk past my house while I'm outside and ask, "are you Taylor McNallie?" My house is surrounded by cameras I’ve installed. Police drones regularly fly over my home. When I go to the grocery store, even when I’m with my kid, people know me. When I’m driving my car and sitting at a red light, I’m always looking around me because at any moment I think I’m going to be shot. I don’t park in a back alley somewhere. I’m very careful in every single step I take in public.
I am a single mom, I have a 13-year-old daughter, and she’s had to hear and witness and see all of these things that I have experienced and what I’ve been going through. I had to sit her down yesterday and tell her that for six or seven months I will be in jail every weekend and that friends will be coming to look after her. Also being a single mother, I’m broke as fuck. Financially, this is incredibly draining. For all of the lawsuits, that money comes directly from my pocket to the lawyer. Luckily with criminal charges, I’ve been able to access Legal Aid for some things but Legal Aid still doesn’t cover costs, you still have to pay that back. I have three different situations for criminal court: that is tens of thousands of dollars just for that alone. With one of the last lawsuits, I ended up just self-representing because I’m not paying this anymore. The moral in it too: like why am I paying a white lawyer to do this, y’all should be doing this for free! Where are the free lawyers doing this shit for us?
Mentally, not okay. I have PTSD, I had a lot of mental health before 2020 just from life. But I’m mentally not okay. I dream about this shit. I dream about police breaking into my house. I think about if somebody were to break into my house, I have a split second to think about if I’m going to grab a weapon because if it’s just some random person and I’m protecting myself then OK but if I pull a weapon and it’s cops then they’re going to shoot me and that’s their own “self-defence.” So it’s constantly all these little things that I have to think about: the way I move, the way I talk, and that’s just surface-level of what I’m thinking about in this moment.
Adora: I recognize that the smear campaign is on. From the beginning, I knew that the police were going to treat me differently because they already have. And the thought of the police coming together with community to harm me has been horrific. I’m attacked all the time. I’m physically attacked more often than I would really like to admit. The charge stacking just was able to put it out into the media. Many of the things that happen to me happen behind the scenes. Most people aren’t going to hear about it or see it or care.
I get the emails threatening my life, threatening rape. My children are attacked on a regular basis. Someone on the C-Train thought that my child was me and repeated my comedy to my child before they were racist to another Black child. It’s horrific to know that people are making up lies. There’s all of this emotional stuff. I’m not being booked. I’m a comedian, I’m a gig worker, I am freelance. This is to interrupt my life. Interrupting me living. People have constantly said that I’m either doing much better than I am — like I live in a gated community or something — or I’m stealing funds. I’m like, “you people don’t know that for the longest time BLM YYC was a single mother paying for it on her own, going to work gigs and the gig money is going straight into it.”
My community has never really been behind me but even moreso now. My community is terrified, not just for me but for themselves. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to say it. I cannot access Legal Aid: I make, I don’t know, $200 too much and I’m a single parent of twins. I’m born, raised, and still living in Calgary. People have called the police for me, as in I have been in harm and they call the police and the police have never helped me. From babydom. I know there’s a laundry list: when the police go into my file, I know my name shows up a lot of places. And to know that they never protected me and now they’re going out of their way to harm me, I’m having a really difficult time dealing with that.
I protect people all the time. I literally put my body in between people and harm. And I don’t know how much I can do that, quite frankly. I’m in medical distress. I have health issues that nobody would ever see that are coming up. My doctor is concerned. I’m concerned. And the police know that these things happen. That is actually the thing that upsets me the most: the police have so much support and victims have no support.
How have the bail conditions impacted your ability to attend protests or be in public?
Adora: The police have restricted me from the only other person on earth that understands this. I am furious. I’m a person of neglect and the one other person who could show me care — especially in this situation — has been restricted from me. But also, I could not go and tell the police that I have been restricted from clubs across Turtle Island, and that’s where I work. The slander piece: it says I’m a violent person that threatens to stab and shoot everybody in the club. Having the police affirm these people means that it’s going to continue happening.
I did go to a protest. I didn’t say anything really to anybody. I was not an organizer, I was walking basically by myself, and they asked me to leave because I’m not “keeping the peace.” If Black people are viewed as violent anyways, there’s no time that I could be “keeping the peace.” It is worded in a way to ensure that they can continue to stack charges. And when I asked them to prove it, they said they don’t have to. I think that’s a human right that the police should have to do that.
Taylor: I think at this point we have the same conditions. The first one Adora mentioned is very important because part of their tactic is to dismantle communities, to dismantle community-building, to keep people separated and away from one another. To them, that’s a win. If a peace officer asks you to leave, you must leave. I’ve been asked to leave protests twice now, literally knowing that I’m going to go and be the best I can be. In my brain, they can remove me if I’m not “keeping the peace.” Fine, I will go stand in silence and hold a sign and that’s exactly what I did and I was just surrounded by cops and told to go.
I remember distinctly this one time Adora and I were going to a protest and no word of a lie, the moment we were spotted, it was like 16 bike cops circled us and they just stood there watching us. We have like our own entourage of police in this city. Being labelled as violent: I remember being arrested and watching them run my name on the screen and the moment you put my name in there it comes up in red of “dangerous, violent, weapons.” That has an impact in so many different ways. The one I’m always fearful of and thinking of is if I’m pulled over and if it’s by chance a cop that doesn’t know me and they see that flash up, that’s when they start bringing back-up and start bringing the helicopter and walking up to the car with their hand on the gun, fearful because in their brain they just see “assault with a weapon,” let alone that it was a fucking bottle of water or a megaphone. I’m not out here with a machete or a gun or a knife. The conditions are also part of the system and set you up for failure.
What’s next on the horizon in this struggle and how can people support?
Taylor: So I’ve been sentenced to 30 days in jail and it will be served on the weekends. I’ll literally be driving myself to jail on Friday evening and then driving myself home on Sunday. That will start January 5th. Luckily, my daughter’s dad lives in Toronto and she will be going to Toronto for the holidays, so I have some time to process this, and maybe drink too much wine and get prepared. That’s what’s next on the horizon for me: every weekend until 30 days are up.
But within that time, I’ll most likely be in trial again for the Western High School matters. Part of charge stacking is that before I took the plea deal a month ago, I’ve not had a criminal record. Before 2020, I never had a criminal charge. So this is all new. But now that there’s a criminal record, it looks even worse when the judge is deciding. When the Western matter comes around, I have a criminal record for all of these things, and also serving jail time. Any sliver of humanity they have left will just kind of disappear in that moment when they’re looking at this.
Stop the Stack was created a few months ago by a really incredible group of people. We’re really, really lucky to have the community and be a part of the community that we are. We’ve built this really amazing family. Some of those folks have come together to create Stop the Stack YYC to create awareness for what’s happening to Adora and I and offer different calls to action and education surrounding these types of situations. We do have a place where people can send donations, and that is not only for legal expenses but also living expenses. Nobody wants to work with us. Whether they classify themselves as progressive, leftist, whatever the fuck: nobody is hiring us. We also have bills to pay. We are single parents. So it’s also for living expenses. On top of people not wanting to hire us, we’re both self-employed, and some things I can do from home but my brain cannot sit here on a computer and make myself build a website well I’m thinking about going to fucking jail next month. So there’s that.
The second is signing the open letter, either as an individual or an organization. A couple of days ago it was at just over 500 signatures. Check out the press kit and share that with your community, especially different media outlets: trusted media outlets, progressive, leftist, whatever, across North America, not just within so-called Canada. The most recent call to action listed yesterday was to both make a complaint against Elena Cunningham in the courthouse protest situation, because the judge said in his decision during trial that Elena Cunningham acted unlawfully. And it was recognized throughout trial that yes, it was theft: she stole my phone, yes she assaulted me, and she assaulted another protester. That protester received a concussion and had to get reconstructive surgery. So filing a complaint.
We already know that it’s not going to go anywhere but leaving a paper trail on people, by emailing the Calgary Police Commission and Calgary Police suggesting charges are laid against Elena Cunningham. All that information is available through Stop the Stack on all social media platforms.
Adora: Maybe I’m a bit froofy but healing. I’m so beyond burnt out, like I don’t even want to say the words because I was probably burnt out in 2020. I feel a lot of guilt that I can’t do the things for my community or myself that I want to. Most people probably wouldn’t talk about that, but that’s really important to me because I feel like many of these things would not have happened or changed. Because we’re fighting for change. And change is not smooth and many of these things would not have happened — not to say that I’m blaming myself for it — but it’s a butterfly effect. I need to continue to create ripples, so I need to heal. So I’m going to be doing that.
I’m going to continue to support Black women as much as I can. And I want to continue the work to highlight how the justice system is really working. I will continue to talk but I think my activism looks a little bit different than most peoples because I have been here so long and so many of the things that are happening are behind the scenes and the media doesn’t want to touch it or talk about it. I will be thinking of how I can face the smear campaign and the slander of both Taylor and myself and many other people.
I also want to say that the charge stacking is not just on myself and Taylor. They are now reaching out to anybody, especially those who are racialized or marginalized, to try and use the same tactics on them. There is a queer organizer who has been charged with nonsense. And a young person, a minor, and a pregnant woman. We’re seeing a snowball effect on this charge stacking. So anybody who’s really involved in organizing, and definitely adjacent to Taylor and I, are being charged. I’m going to keep educating them.
I am thinking about a civil suit because I have human rights and I’m born in Calgary and the CPS has been violating my civil rights my whole life. Taking steps to amplify the things that are happening that most people won’t hear about. And supporting my family.
Taylor: Anything that is done will always be practiced on Black people first, historically. The more people avoid addressing anti-Blackness within their organizing, the more these things can happen. Whether you like us or not, whether you care about Black Lives Matter or not, these things affect all of us. It affects everybody. What does solidarity and unity really look like?
Adora: The only thing that I would add is: listen to Black women. I’ve been saying it and saying it and saying it. But they didn’t hear me. And this is what has happened. It’s only going to get worse and I know a lot of stuff. Whether you like me or not, I interrupt harm. If you want harm to continue, ignore me. If you want change and good things to happen while you’re organizing, there are at least two people in this city who have impacted change. And we’re being punished for it. That is the proof.