Tonye Allen after what he says was an unprovoked beating by Toronto Police.
Sometimes, it seems that Black people can never accomplish enough professionally to be consistently treated like human beings by white police authorities. In an e-mail I received today and at their blog, Tonye Allen and Ann Brown (who writes for Black Enterprise) recount what happened when they finished a photo shoot in Toronto and checked out of their hotel:
October 16, 2006, at approximately 1:40 pm after checking out of the Econolodge Hotel (335 Jarvis Street) and while in the process of hailing a taxi, Black Americans Tonye Allen and his fiancee, Ann Brown, were assaulted by several Downtown Toronto policemen from the 51st Division. Mr. Allen, who did not resist, was beaten and pepper sprayed several times while handcuffed and in police custody. Ms. Brown was choked, shoved, and threatened with arrest as well. Tonye Allen and Ann Brown Blog
Reporting on this incident, the ThugLifeArmy.Com site says,
Mr. Tonye Allen is an African American hip hop photographer whose work has appeared in many hip hop related publications as L.A. Weekly, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Vibe Magazine, and The Source among other. An avid traveler, he has never experienced anything like his current incident. In his 45 years, he has never once been arrested but his recent visit to Toronto, Canada, with his fiancée, Ann Brown, has shed light again in the hip hop community on the police brutality which, according to the numbers, is becoming rampant in Toronto; and now American tourists seem to also be at risk as in the case of African American hip hop photographer Mr. Tonye Allen. ThugLifeArmy.Com
The couple's press release says:
Mr. Allen was never told why he was being detained. The arresting police refused to tell Ms. Brown where they were taking Mr. Allen. After locating the correct police station, Ms. Brown spoke with a "Det. Moyer," who said he "hadn't decided" what he was going to charge Mr. Allen with. Ultimately, Mr. Allen was charged with assault of two police and resisting arrest, times two.
After Ms. Brown posted cash bail of $1,000, Mr. Allen's passport was taken by "Det. Matthew Moyer."
Mr. Allen was unarmed. He had never been arrested. He had no criminal history. He has no history of drug/alcohol abuse or psychiatric problems. Mr. Allen and Ms. Brown are seeking publicity and legal references to help fight these false charges.
Mr. Allen is a photojournalist who works professionally under the name "TRILOBITE." His work has appeared in: Essence, Vibe, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, LA Weekly, The Source Magazine, and on the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries." He has worked for Sony Music, PolyGram Records, Def Jam Records, and Interscope Records, among others. Ms. Brown is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Essence, Black Enterprise, Upscale Magazine, The Source , and various other publications.
Mr. Allen and Ms. Brown were in Toronto on their way to South Africa.
Sgt. Jim Cassells, a Toronto Police officer who served on a special city task force investigation police abuses, said abuse of members of the public is all too common in Toronto:
Cassells said he has watched police supervisors turn a blind eye to many cases involving officers. Known for being outspoken, Cassells has had the tough job of investigating other officers and said he felt it was time to speak out even though he knows he risks losing his job.
He said he has seen "numerous cases minimized, for simple terms swept under the carpet," and "complaints against police not being processed" and "allegations of assault not being investigated fully." CBC News
Racial profiling in the city has also become a very serious problem, according to recent studies by the University of Toronto.
The first-ever study of so-called racial profiling in Canada is raising questions about police bias across the country. Conducted by the police force in Kingston, Ont., the study found that black motorists or pedestrians were 3.5 times more likely to be stopped and questioned while aboriginals were 1.4 times more likely to be stopped. Asians and Hispanics, meanwhile, were less likely to be approached. University of Toronto News
In a press release, Ann Brown says,
Tonye Allen and his fiancée, Ann Brown, had just checked out of the hotel, were at the curb attempting to hail a cab. While in the process, a police car from the 51 st Division pulled over at started asking questions of the two. When they answered, the officer said he didn't like their attitude, especially after they sought to find out why they were being questioned.
Enraged the officer, jumped out of the car, grabbed Mr. Allen and called for backup. When backup came, there was no questioning. They immediately all descended upon Mr. Allen pepper sprayed him, knocked him to the floor, hit and kicked him. Someone on the street was videotaping the incident as onlookers were appalled. The person videotaping was told he too would be arrested.
They also told Ms. Brown she was going to be arrested for disturbing the peace when she sought to see what was happening to Mr. Allen and when she went to seek help from bystanders. She was pushed, grabbed by the throat and also subdued by another police officer. The police refused to tell her or Mr. Allen the arrest charges. They refused to tell Ms. Brown their names or badge numbers. They refused to tell Ms. Brown what division they were taking Mr. Allen to. One of the witnesses on the street told her what division the police were from.
After arriving at the police station Ms. Brown spoke with a Det. Moyer who informed her: "We get all kinds of crap from the public everyday and we don't have to take it," he told her. When she said they within their rights to question the officer as to his reason for singling them out, and that we were in a free country, Det. Moyer said, "This ( Canada) is not a free country."
Mr. Allen and Ms. Brown are both African American. According to a former officer, the problem of police brutality has gotten worse in Toronto. Sgt. Jim Cassells told CBC News. "police brass have covered up, refused to investigate or buried cases of alleged police brutality, public complaints and internal corruption for years." Tonye Allen and Ann Brown Blog
Ann Brown says,
I wholeheartedly believe we were victims of racial profiling and Mr. Allen was a victim of Toronto Police brutality. We were in front of a hotel, with several large bags as well as our pet in a pet travel bag. We were not suspicious. There was no other reason to question us other than we were black.