An Ottawa businessman has ordered 500 wristbands emblazoned with the name of Abdirahman Abdi — and the white star of the Somali flag — to show solidarity with the dead man’s family.
Greg Birtch, a former firefighter, launched his initiative in response to what he believes was an unnecessarily provocative move by Ottawa police officers, who sold “United We Stand” wristbands this week to show their support for a colleague, Const. Daniel Montsion.
Montsion faces charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in connection with Abdi’s death in July 2016.
“I thought it was fairly outrageous; for Abdi’s family to be dealing with everything they face, and now these police bracelets,” Birtch said Thursday. “It seemed almost like a slap in the face to these folks, to my mind, anyway.”
Abdi, 37, an immigrant from Somalia with mental health issues, died in police custody after his violent arrest on the morning of July 24, 2016. Officers had been called to the area by local Bridgehead patrons who complained about a man groping women in the coffee shop.
Earlier this week, some Ottawa police officers sold black-and-blue wristbands to show their support for Montsion as his criminal case began its journey through the court system. Proceeds from the sale of the $2 bracelets went to the police union’s benevolent fund.
Birtch argued that police officers had other ways to stand behind their colleague — a benefit dinner or other private fundraiser — that did not involve such a pugnacious, public message.
“They have a tough job: they’re making split-second decisions,” said Birtch. “But this is a controversial incident…
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