Last week QueenTite Opaleke was late for work. She was walking across a busy street near Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto and noticed a Black man crossing the street too, walking in her direction.
“It was about nine o’clock in the morning, he was walking leisurely just like me, holding an Allen key and kind of swinging it back and forth,” she says.
Within moments, a police car slammed on its brakes, a police officer jumped out screaming, “Don’t move, stop!” QueenTite says at first she was confused, she didn’t know who the officer was talking to, but the officer then yelled “drop it” and the Black man dropped the Allen key on the ground.
“That’s when I realized they were talking to him and not me. They started manhandling him, it was really disturbing. That’s when I started recording. I was alone and he was alone, so immediately I got his back."
Opaleke says once police knew they were being recorded, their behaviour changed almost immediately. “Let’s just say they started handling him much nicer.”
Nevertheless, she says the whole thing seemed completely unwarranted. “They thought he was holding a weapon. An Allen key is for assembling furniture. I do feel like if he was white and wearing a suit, of course, this would have been a different dynamic. I reassured the brother that I am here, I am your witness, I am witnessing you as a person and your experience, you’re not alone."
There’s visible relief on the man’s face when Opaleke calls out to him, urging him to stay calm saying, “I got you, I’m your witness.”
The man was searched, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser. Opaleke says she doesn’t know what became of the man, but hopes he’s okay.
“I do believe that I am my brother’s keeper and I hope my brother is my keeper. I hope if that happened to me, he would take a few minutes to stop and document it, and let me know that I’m not alone."