A retired Ottawa firefighter is launching his own line of wristbands in solidarity with the family of Abdirahman Abdi as a counter to a police campaign in support of the officer charged with manslaughter in Abdi's death.
Retired Ottawa firefighter Greg Birtch said he was deeply offended and embarrassed by news that some members of the Ottawa police had ordered wristbands embedded with the words "United we stand, divided we fall" in support of Const. Daniel Montsion, the officer charged with manslaughter in the death of Abdi, a Somali-Canadian.
Birtch has ordered 500 wristbands featuring the blue of the Somali flag as well as the flag's star, and the words "Stand with Abdi."
He will sell them for $2 each when he receives them next week, with the profits going directly to the Abdi family, he said. There has been plenty of interest on his Facebook page, he added.
"I think this has touched a nerve in a lot of people," said Birtch.
Wristbands a 'slap in the face' to family
The retired firefighter said he understands why it's important for officers to stand together, but that the police wristbands don't consider the feelings of others.
"You know, there's a lot of ways they could have stood together without doing this," said Birtch. "I think it's sort of a slap in the face to a lot of people, and a slap in the face to the family."
Earlier this week, Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau issued a statement urging caution about the wristbands, saying community perceptions must be taken into account and that the wristbands should not be worn during working hours.
Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, also issued a statement urging officers to take a step back and "reflect on the bigger picture."
"This is not the way we want to police our city or our community," said El-Chantiry. "Any clothing, any messaging to divide our community we should stay away from."