An Indigenous man in Yellowknife is demanding change after he says he was beaten by multiple Mounties just one day after hundreds of residents gathered in solidarity against racism and police brutality.

Benjamin Manuel says he was walking home from work alongside his partner on the evening of June 10 near Kim’s Confectionery when he was stopped by Yellowknife RCMP.
Manuel alleges three officers kicked and stomped him in the face.

“They picked me up, beat me up and threw me out of the vehicle like I was nothing,” Manuel said. Taking to Facebook following the alleged assault at the hands of RCMP officers, Manuel recounted the incident online.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo. Benjamin Manuel says he was beaten by Yellowknife Mounties Wednesday evening on his way home from work. Joined by supporters outside the police detachment Friday, he called for change. ‘It t shouldn’t happen to Aboriginal people or any kind of people, any kind of race. I want respect — that’s what I want,’ he said.

He told NNSL Media he was not arrested or taken to RCMP cells. Manuel, still wearing a patient identification band, went to Stanton Territorial Hospital to be examined.

On June 12 — moments before NWT RCMP’s commanding officer Jamie Zettler held a press conference — Manuel, bruised with two black eyes, gathered outside the Yellowknife detachment with half a dozen friends, co-workers and supporters.

Originally from Fort Good Hope, Manuel said Wednesday’s incident wasn’t the first time he’s experienced police brutality. He said he was roughed up by NWT RCMP officers as recently as March 2019, adding police are “constantly bugging him.”

He wants it to stop.

“It shouldn’t happen to Aboriginal people or any kind of people, any kind of race. I want respect — that’s what I want” Manuel said.

“Police are constantly harassing people for no reason and I’m one of them,” he continued.
Manuel said he wants to pursue legal action against the officers. He believes he knows the name of one of the Mounties, but the identities of the others are unknown to him.

Asked about his communications with RCMP following the alleged beating, Manuel said police recently interviewed him about the incident.

He added that he attended the detachment Friday to speak up for himself and others who have been victimized or harassed by law enforcement.

NWT’s top cop acknowledges racism among ranks

Last week’s RCMP press conference — a rare occurrence over the last few years — was apparently meant to address the June 9 Black Lives Matter march that drew demonstrations, at times chanting “defund the police,” outside police headquarters. However, the press conference quickly turned into a discussion about police brutality, racism among RCMP’s ranks, concerns from residents in NWT communities about policing practices and the alleged assault on Manuel.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo. NWT RCMP’s commanding officer Jamie Zettler told reporters Friday that police were looking into the incident, but declined to provide specifics. He indicated that Manuel’s social media post may not be telling the whole story. During the same press conference, Zettler, pressed by reporters, said racism exists in all facets of society and the NWT RCMP is no exception.

Amid global protests against police brutality — sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota — Zettler, pressed by reporters, acknowledged that racism and “unconscious biases” exist among the ranks of the NWT RCMP.

“There’s racism in society and we are part of our society here in our country and if it exists in our country then it’s going to exist in all of our organizations, and the RCMP is no different,” said Zettler.

“The NWT RCMP is working to combat racism and discrimination and we must understand there’s still work to be done to reduce it, not only in the territories but across the world.”
Following the admission, Zettler — telling media that Mounties in the North “do a great job” — stressed that RCMP members receive training related to biases, racism and “cultural orientation.”

“Our members have a perception from what they see. Community members also have a perception,” the commanding officer said.

‘Sometimes social media doesn’t have all the facts’

Addressing the alleged assault against Manuel, Zettler said RCMP are “following up” on the complaint, but wouldn’t go into specifics about an investigation.

“I certainly have to say that we need to know what the information is and what occurred before making any decisions. It has been brought to the attention of the detachment and we’re in the process of following up (on it),” Zettler told reporters. “Unfortunately, sometimes social media doesn’t have all the facts.”

Zettler refused to comment on the identities of the officers involved in the alleged assault.

Newly-formed coalition pushing for change

Morgan Johnson, who participated in last week’s demonstration, met with Manuel and other supporters outside the RCMP detachment. She’s one of about 20 people involved in a new Yellowknife-based coalition supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We want to see some serious changes within the justice system. We don’t want to be back (at the detachment) twice in one week,” said Johnson. “I want to hear that there will be change and I want to see it.”

Brendan Burke

As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility...

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  1. There are lots of story of po-lice, brutality going back to 70’s and they rough up people before you get into the drunk tank, they push you very hard against the wall, even 4 or 5 of them will twist your both arms up, while they punch and kick you repeatedly and punch you in the face. That’s what allot of First Nation have bruises, cuts and black eye. RCMP are to ‘SERVE AND PROTECT ‘ not beating up people for no reason. If they don’t like there job, leave ho home beat up your own white people. We First Nation, have been quiet for a long time, and I know an elders was heartened up and because of the beating on his head, he was released but because of the head injury, he was staggering around and they picked him up again and threw this elders into the drunk tank. And, this First Nation elder died in the drunk tank, those police got away Scot free and they were never charged. And today this brutality against First Nation has to stop. And under our Treaty 8 of 1900, RCMP, are civic servant of Canada, and they are not to molest, mistreat, jail and do no harm to Wards of Crown which are the First Nation People of Canada.