Community rallies behind young Black victim of racist attack

·3 min read
Pazo, an eighth-grade student at Rosslyn School in north Edmonton, was attacked in the schoolyard on April 16.  (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Pazo, an eighth-grade student at Rosslyn School in north Edmonton, was attacked in the schoolyard on April 16. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

A racist attack on a junior high boy has seen community members turn out to raise awareness and support his family.

The Grade 8 student, who CBC News is identifying as Pazo, was attacked by a group of boys outside Rosslyn School on April 16. A video circulating online shows the teenager beaten by several other boys, including one who puts him in a chokehold and slams him to the ground. Someone can be heard calling him the N-word.

Calls to action in response to the attack are now being amplified by several local community leaders and groups, including the Black-Owned Market Edmonton. Ivan Touko is the technology business officer for the organization, which works to uplift and empower Black-owned business owners.

"We just want some accountability, we just want something to happen so that behaviours like this are not encouraged," he said.

"We need people to actively work towards trying to support Pazo, his family, but also support what community feels like — because I don't think Pazo's ever going to feel safe again at that school ever."

The group has put email templates on social media addressed to school officials and police demanding consequences for the boys involved.

It has also created a form to send messages of support to Pazo and his family.

"Just to show the support and to show that he's not alone in this and that the community supports him," Touko said. He said several people have also come together to raise funds to support the family.

A GoFundMe has brought in more than $25,000 to help cover a variety of expenses, including legal and long-term psychological needs.

Accountability needed, mayor says

Mayor Don Iveson said during a news availability Monday that the attack demonstrates that more work needs to be done to combat racism.

Iveson said he met with the family on Sunday alongside Trisha Estabrooks, chair of the Edmonton Public School Board, and Superintendent Darrel Robertson.

"To acknowledge that systemic racism and racist behaviour is unfortunately still part of our community and we still have a tremendous amount of work to do to call it out," he said.

"And also that there needs to be accountability for instances of violence like this."

A statement from Robertson on Sunday said the board had recommended the students involved be expelled. It followed a statement a day earlier that any potential related consequences were bound by privacy legislation.

A statement from the Edmonton Catholic School Division said two of its students were involved but names and disciplinary action were protected by privacy legislation.

It said their names had been provided to the Edmonton Police Service for their investigation.

Tiera Williams and her son, Quentin, took part in a demonstration Sunday that left signs at Rosslyn School.
Tiera Williams and her son, Quentin, took part in a demonstration Sunday that left signs at Rosslyn School.(Submitted by Tiera Williams)

Tiera Williams is the founder of the anti-racism group A Fight For Equity, which was one of the main organizers of this summer's massive protest against systemic racism. She says the school was slow to act and there should be charges laid.

"It seems to have taken outrage from the community and a lot of pressure applied onto them before they even did anything."

The family has also called for the students to face criminal charges.

Williams said while the response from local Black, African and Caribbean community groups has been amazing, she has seen comments downplaying the event with a "boys being boys" mentality.

"It sounds like they're trying to justify it as not what it is, which is a hate crime."

Williams said a protest at Rosslyn School on Sunday hung signs in support of Pazo. She said efforts are underway to organize more demonstrations.