Hundreds of mourners in Canada’s capital of Ottawa have taken part in the funeral ceremony for a mentally-ill Muslim man, who died after being detained by police, sparking debate on racial bias.
Over 600 people, including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and other local politicians, took part in the Friday funeral for Abdirahman Abdi, filling Ottawa’s largest mosque and spilling onto the street.
According to witnesses, the 37-year-old Abdi was severely beaten police officers, who had reportedly responded to calls of a disturbance last weekend.
A video footage taken by a bystander showed the black man in a bloodied shirt lying face down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind him and his pants pulled down before paramedics arrived.
Abdi’s death echoed similar scenes in neighboring United States, where a string of police killings of African American men and widespread allegations of police brutality have triggered numerous protest rallies.
The mayor was criticized earlier in the week for not making a statement until two days after the arrest on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a number of local advocates have called for criminal charges to be filed against the officers involved in the incident. There have also been calls for a probe into whether race was a factor as advocacy groups voiced concerns over police violence against minorities.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating the circumstances surrounding Abdi’s arrest. Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau also said on Friday that officers have been taunted and videotaped in “a number of incidents” after Abdi’s death.
“People are reacting right now, but I think we need to take a step back,” Bordeleau told an Ottawa radio station.
This is while a protest march is due to be held in Ottawa for Saturday. Another rally was held in Montreal on Thursday.
In a statement read at the funeral on behalf of Abdi’s family, he was remembered as a “wonderful son, amazing brother and kindhearted uncle.”
“What happened to him that Sunday wasn’t fair at all and shouldn’t be justified by any means,” read the statement. "We all have many questions but we are trying to be patient.”