Hundreds protest death of black man after Canadian police arrest

Mourners react after the funeral of Abdirahman Abdi, a mentally ill black man who died following his arrest by police, in Ottawa, on July 29 2016.
Mourners react after the funeral of Abdirahman Abdi, a mentally ill black man who died following his arrest by police, in Ottawa, on July 29 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - More than 500 people rallied in Canada's capital on Saturday (July 30) to protest the death of a mentally ill black man following an arrest, marching against what they see as race-based police brutality in a country that prides itself for being tolerant.

Abdirahman Abdi, 37, died on Monday after witnesses told local media he was beaten by Ottawa police officers who responded to calls of a disturbance.

His death echoed events in the United States, where a string of police killings of black men and allegations of police brutality and racial bias have sparked protests.

"Justice for Abdirahman! Justice!" an attendee shouted to cheers and applause before the march went under way.

The march is expected to end at a police station, though organisers have said they would respect the wishes of Abdi's family for the event to be peaceful.

"Ensure there isn't any antagonisation to the police at all," an organiser said before the march.

Abdi's family held his funeral on Friday, which was attended by at least 600 people, including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and other local politicians.

The province of Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is investigating the circumstances surrounding Abdi's arrest. Some advocates have called for criminal charges to be filed.

There have also been calls for a probe into whether race was a factor as advocacy groups voiced concerns over police violence against minorities.