Members of the Anonymous group Operation Thunderbird came to the city of Thunder Bay to hold a rally outside of the Thunder Bay Police Services (TBPS) headquarters.
Operation Thunderbird said the rally was to show support for missing and murdered Indigenous women, and to remind local police the importance of taking the issue seriously.
Operation Thunderbird came about after members of the group Anonymous learned of the hate crime and sexual assault by two unidentified white males against a local First Nations woman in December of last year.
The rally took place on April 6. Even though it was a peaceful protest, several members of TBPS were on guard at each driveway entrance. Officers were also stationed outside of the main entrance into the building.
Some TBPS members were armed with cameras and taped the hour and a half-long event, with one officer seated with a camera inside a crime scene unit truck that was also on site.
Although TBPS showed what Operation Thunderbird dubbed a “massive police response” to the rally, the event went off without incident.
Inspector Dan Taddeo of TBPS said that there was a cause for concern over violence at the rally after there was no communication between Operation Thunderbird and the TBPS, which is why they took such extreme security measures. Taddeo said that threats were made over social media against the force.
“This protest put us in a position where we had to allocate police resources in the city of Thunder Bay to deal with this situation where they failed to communicate with us,” Taddeo said.
Although Operation Thunderbird came to the city to show support for the victim of the December assault, and also the First Nations community here in the city, there was only one resident of Thunder Bay in attendance at the rally.
Operation Thunderbird stated that some local protestors who showed up early said that they were “turned away” by the TBPS.
The remaining protestors came in from Toronto, Winnipeg, and Kenora in support of Operation Thunderbird and its mission to bring awareness of the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Speakers at the rally included Sheila North Wilson, communications officer for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and Gail Nepinak.
“The Thunder Bay police are doing an outstanding job protecting their building,” Wilson said at the rally. “What we want is for them to put in the same effort to protect our women.”
Nepinak spoke of her sister, Tanya Jane Nepinak, who was murdered in Winnipeg. Police there have yet to uncover her body at a Winnipeg landfill.
“We were so very honoured to have beautiful and strong women, mothers, and sisters who have lost their daughters join us in supporting the Thunder Bay woman,” Operation Thunderbird said in a statement via direct message on Twitter. “We were a small but peaceful group of people.”
“Words of love and support were spoken, we hope the women in Thunder Bay know that they are loved,” Operation Thunderbird said.
“We will come back anytime we are invited, just as they are invited anytime to visit us and join our future rallies,” Operation Thunderbird said. “Opthunderbird continues.”
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