Welcome to the latest newsletter from Winnipeg Police Cause Harm! This issue includes a news recap, an overview of what we’ve been keeping busy with over the last few months (and what your generous donations have been supporting), events and opportunities to get involved in, and some suggested reading material.

"More of us need to take up the basic demand put forth by Black and Indigenous people for generations—that armed overseers of the state have no place in our daily lives. We need to dismantle a policing system whose power is designed to dominate us, and build more equitable and reciprocal approaches to safety." (Desmond Cole, “Police fight for the right to be wrong”)

In the news

Content warning: Police killing, anti-Indigenous racism

Killing of James Wood: On January 27, 2024, the girlfriend of James Wood called 911 when Wood appeared to be in crisis and had fallen down a flight of stairs. Multiple police officers arrived at the scene, and immediately yelled at and restrained Wood, who was lying on the ground. Witnesses reported that police appeared to taser him, as well as beat him with a baton. Police then carried his unresponsive body into their vehicle. Wood died in hospital later that day. He was only 35 years old.

The family and friends of James Wood are rightly demanding change, as well as an unbiased, fair investigation into Wood’s death. They have called out the Winnipeg Police Service’s unjust use of force that disproportionately affects Indigenous communities and highlighted the systemic racial biases that are deeply embedded in policing. In a statement at a news conference on January 28, WPS Chief Danny Smyth attempted to downplay the force police used during the incident. However, video footage taken by a witness during the incident completely disproves Smyth’s statement.

Horizontal photo of about a dozen people standing with many signs about James Wood. His dad, Brian Wood, speaks into the mic.
Photo credit: WPCH

What we’ve been up to

Helping organize International Day Against Police Brutality: Since it was started by groups in Montreal and Switzerland in the late 1990s, March 15th has been observed as the International Day Against Police Brutality (IDAPB). Last year, WPCH helped organize an IDAPB action that started outside Millennium Library. This year, given our focus on the multi-year budget described below, a rally and march began at City Hall, while community members simultaneously presented to council’s “Executive Policy Committee” (you can see one of our members present while the rally was ongoing here). 

The action was a huge success, and included speeches from the family members of people killed by the WPS, including Elias Whitehead, Dustin Hatcher, and James Wood. We also heard from representatives from Queers for Palestine Winnipeg and Migrante Manitoba/Anakbayan Manitoba. Following the rally, we marched to the nearby Central Park, and then had a community dinner and hang-out at X-Cues on Sargent. 

Here are some highlights from the art build that we hosted before the action; people truly made some amazing, creative art! Check out photos from the rally and march by Emily Leedham, along with more photos from the event. The event was also picked up by the media and featured on APTN, CTV and Global.

Horizontal photo of people marching down Main Street holding signs, including one of Elias Whitehead and another of James Wood
Photo credit: Emily Leedham

Publishing articles about WPS killings: Between July 2023 and February 2024, the WPS killed at least nine people. WPCH has published articles about several of these killings, providing far more critical context than is available in mainstream media. In mid-January, we published a thorough analysis by Fadi Ennab about the WPS killing of 19-year-old Nigerian international student Afolabi Stephen Opaso on New Year’s Eve, with a particular focus on the countless stressors and extreme lack of support that international students face. Later in January, WPCH published a Q&A with Carrie Blaydon, the partner of Dustin Hatcher, who was with him when he was killed by the WPS on Nov. 28, 2023. This type of analysis is especially important in the wake of WPS killings, since the police go to great lengths to downplay, cause confusion around, and outright lie about their actions.

Providing detailed budget analysis and interventions: The city’s latest municipal budget was shared in its draft form in early February and approved in mid-March. During this period, WPCH provided detailed analysis of the police budget—something not offered by any media outlet, despite the budget’s huge financial and political implications. We published a general framing piece about key facts on the police budget before its release, as well as a detailed analysis of the budget itself — which will see city funding of the WPS increase by almost $31 million per year by 2027, totalling more than $312 million (by then, total WPS annual spending will be more than $363 million).

Part of WPCH’s budget intervention included a police board presentation in early March that was cut off by board chair Markus Chambers because our member accurately described the WPS as having killed nine people since the last budget process (the full text of the presentation that would have been delivered if Chambers hadn’t interrupted can be read here). This decision elicited social media outrage, and resulted in media coverage by CityNews and even a critical response from the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board. However, as is the well-established norm, Chambers faced no consequences for this deeply anti-democratic move.

In early April, WPCH also published an analysis of the first provincial budget released by the newly elected Manitoba NDP government, which has increased spending on provincial policing by almost $30 million a year. We concluded, “With this budget, the NDP has maintained a long-standing right-wing trajectory by increasing funding to policing at the expense of things that actually keep people safe.” This piece was republished by Canadian Dimension, an excellent national left-wing media outlet.

Showing up with anti-police materials at May Day: May 1 is International Workers' Day, also known as May Day, and was marked this year in Winnipeg by a coordinated effort focused on Palestinian liberation by groups including Community Solidarity Manitoba, the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba, Independent Jewish Voices, and Labour for Palestine. WPCH showed up to support and offer a specifically anti-police presence, carrying our “Cops Don’t Work” banner and distributing pamphlets about the need for cops to be excluded from the labour movement (the text from the leaflet can be found on our blog here). The action had a great turnout and we’re grateful for the organizers who put it together.

Horizontal photo of people walking down Main Street, two people hold a big white banner that reads "Cops don't work"
Photo credit: Ryan Garcia

Upcoming events/opportunities

Palestine encampments at the U of M and U of W: As you’ve likely already heard, Winnipeg has joined the global movement for Palestinian liberation with not one but two university encampments. The U of M encampment is located on the “quad,” in the middle of the U of M campus, and the U of W encampment sits on the UW front lawn by Portage. Please show up to support and bring supplies, and keep an eye on social media for specific callouts (Students for Justice in Palestine for the U of M and the People’s University of Palestine Treaty 1 for the U of W). There is a detailed list of ways that you can help the U of W camp here. Please also sign this petition in support of the University of Alberta students attacked by EPS and their demands; if you're faculty of the U of W or a supporter from another university, there's a petition in support of the camp here.

Conference at the U of W and related events (May 13-15): There’s a cool (and free!) critical criminology conference happening at the University of Winnipeg, which started on Monday, May 13. It’s being organized by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Justice Studies (CIJS) and is titled “Perverting Justice: Law, Crime, Justice and the Perverse.” There are many interesting sessions that are well worth checking out (the full program is here) but here are a few noteworthy events to put in your calendar.

  • Book launch, book drive, and social event: Tuesday, May 14 @ 5:30-9 PM, University Club, 4th Floor, Wesley Hall at the U of W
  • Book launch by Gary Kinsman (and speakers Tom Hopper, Leon Laidlaw, & Erica Mcnabb): Thursday, May 16 @ 7 PM, Willow Press, 214 Osborne Street

Pride: Winnipeg Pride season is almost upon us! It starts with a flag raising on Friday, May 24, and lasts until the parade and rally on Sunday, June 2. As with previous Pride seasons, we’ll likely be making some interventions to remind folks how cops harm queer and trans people, so keep an ear out! Check out our new posters for Pride here — feel free to download and put them up!

Prisoners’ Justice Day: It’s still a ways off, but please mark your calendars for an action for Prisoners’ Justice Day on Saturday, August 10!

Ongoing t-shirt sale: As part of our group fundraising efforts—which help cover things like honorariums for rally speakers and printing costs for posters and pamphlets—we’ve been selling a batch of new t-shirts, with an amazing design on the back by Hannah Blu! To buy a t-shirt, please send us an e-transfer for $30 per shirt with your name, email, phone #, and shirt type/size to wpgpolicecauseharm@gmail.com. We have limited quantities, especially of the white colour, but you can email or DM us to confirm we have your preferred size/colour before sending an e-transfer. Local pick-up is easiest but we can likely facilitate shipping for a fee. All proceeds go directly back into our work.

Design with an upside down police car with flowers growing out of it. The colours and blue and white. The text at the bottom says "Winnipeg Police Cause Harm"
Design on back of t-shirt by Hannah Blu

Further reading


Beyond Manitoba

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