On August 26, 1979 Albert Johnson, a 35-year-old Jamaican Canadian, was shot dead in his home. Immediately, the Black community organized. The Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) along with over 30 community organizations mobilized 2,000 people to march from Oakwood/Vaughn to 13th division headquarters to protest Johnson’s murder. Again on October 14, 1979, 1000 people protested at Toronto City Hall.
The Albert Johnson Committee Against Police Brutality had three demands:
1. They demanded that the two police officers be charged with murder instead of manslaughter.
2. They requested that Toronto police provide full compensation to Johnson’s wife and four children.
3. They demanded the Province of Ontario and Attorney-General Roy McMurty establish an independent civilian review board for complaints against the police.
November, 1980, both police officers, Cargnelli and Inglis, were acquitted of manslaughter charges.
BADC continued to protest and finally in 1988, Toronto police made a secret settlement in court after the Johnson family filed a civil lawsuit against them.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was created in 1990 as a way to increase police accountability in the investigation of civilian murders. Despite the historic and ongoing limitations of the SIU, the reform was a victory for the Black community because it was an acknowledgement that anti-Black racism and police brutality are systemic problems that require institutional reform.
In a related protest, on February 20, 1981, Lemona Johnson, Albert’s widow, spoke outside 52 division headquarter at a massive protest against the vicious police attack on the city’s gay bath houses just two weeks earlier. She, and others, drew the parallels between police violence against the Black community and the gay community.
Members of both the Black Women’s Collective and the Congress of Black Women were involved individually and as organizations in demanding an end to police brutality against Black people.