A crowd of hundreds gathered at Edmonton’s City Hall on Sunday evening to stand in unity against Saturday’s violence that shocked many in the capital city and beyond.
“We know that Edmonton is a very resilient city,” said Faisal Khan Suri, the president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, after the organization hosted the Stand Together Against Violence in Solidarity with EPS rally in response to two separate incidents that took place on Saturday night.
The dramatic events began when a Chevrolet Malibu first drove into a Commonwealth Stadium area police barricade, hitting Const. Mike Chernyk who was standing behind it. The driver then got out and stabbed the officer before running off. Later that evening, police pulled over a U-Haul at a northside CheckStop. It drove off with police in pursuit all the way to Jasper Avenue where the cube van struck pedestrians, sending four to hospital with one in serious condition.
Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, has since been charged with five counts of attempted murder, four counts of criminal flight causing bodily harm, and one count each of dangerous driving and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. He will return to court next month.
Suri called the public gathering a “true testament to the support” from people of all faiths and walks of life.
“The immense support has been truly amazing. We’re not surprised to see that. Hatred has no place in Edmonton, in Alberta, or Canada.”
Renee Vaugeois, the executive director of the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, showed up to show her commitment to fighting hatred.
“When things like this happen in our city, I think it’s important for us to come together and show each other that we’re there for each other. That’s often not easy for a lot of people.”
She urged people not to become prejudiced against others of any group based on the actions of the one person, who is now in police custody.
John Humphrey Centre board member Ranya El-Sharkawi suggested that there are far greater detriments to society that don’t get as much attention but should.
“We need to talk about the greater issues of homegrown, domestic violence and intolerance. The fact that black and Aboriginal Edmontonians are being disproportionately targeted … the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, men and boys. Violence is violence. We are failing segments of our society,” she said, noting that the suspect comes from an ethnic community that is already marginalized, excluded and vulnerable.
She said that people must intervene any time they witness an act of hatred or violence wherever it occurs, while not contributing to the hatred or violence themselves.
“I think we need to be critical of how this event is being framed. This individual committed a horrible act of violence that is indisputable. He can and he should be held accountable. But, instead of vilifying this individual, we need to start paying attention to the roots here.”