By Caroline O’Neill
Blue and black wristbands being worn by local police have sparked a debate in Ottawa after they were commissioned by officers in support of their colleague, Const. Daniel Montsion, who faces charges in last year’s death of Somali-Canadian man Abdirahman Abdi.
Following an investigation by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, Montsion was charged in early March with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in connection with Abdi’s death during a violent interaction with police last July.
The plastic wristbands are selling for $2 and feature Montsion’s badge number — 1998 —along with the phrases “united we stand” and “divided we fall”.
The bracelets have created a fraught debate, with many arguing that police officers should not be displaying their solidarity with Montsion in an unresolved case and given the nature of the charges he faces.
“This particular act of solidarity demonstrates a blatant disregard for human life,” the Justice For Abdirahman Abdi Coalition stated in a March 29 press release.
Greg Birtch, a retired Ottawa firefighter, designed a different set of wristbands with the Somali flag and the words “Stand with Abdi.” Those bracelets are being sold for $2, and Birtch has said the profits will go directly to Abdi’s family.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau has sent a memo to police officers stating that the wristbands are not part of the uniform and should not be worn by anyone on duty. But the initial batch of 1,200 bracelets are sold out and more have been ordered.
A pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for next month.