Chants of “Justice for Mona Wang” filled Richmond city centre Saturday afternoon as dozens of residents took to the streets in support of a B.C. nursing student and to protest police brutality.
“It’s time for a change, and what happened to Mona Wang shouldn’t happen again,” said Yoshier Hu, who attended the rally.
A surveillance video released late last month shows an RCMP officer in Kelowna dragging Mona Wang – a nursing student at UBC Okanagan – down the hallway and stepping on her head, during a wellness check at her apartment in January.
Hu said she felt “heartbroken” watching that footage.
“The pain and trauma Mona experienced impacts the whole community. We hope to see the police paired with health professionals or social workers during future mental wellness checks,” said Hu.
“It’s time for the police to be under the supervision of a locally-elected board and police officers should wear bodycams...When the police function without accountability, transparency and respect, the most vulnerable suffers,” reads a media release hand out at the rally.
The rally began at 1 p.m. at Brighouse Park, and protesters marched down No. 3 Road before heading down to Richmond Public Library’s Brighouse Branch.
Richmond city coun. Chak Au – who was at the rally and held a sign reading “support the victims, amend the mental health act” and “safer community” – said wellness calls should be left to healthcare professionals.
“The police aren’t the most ideal and appropriate people to handle mental health crises, we should leave these to our health professionals,” he said.
Au said British Columbians should urge the provincial government to amend its Mental Health Act, which requires police to conduct wellness checks.
“In terms of this tragic incident, it’s not just hurting the local Asian community, it actually hurts all vulnerable individuals.”
Policy needs to change
During a news conference about the incident Thursday, chief supt. Brad Haugli of B.C. RCMP’s southeast district, said the current policy around wellness checks needs to change.
“My vision would be that there would be a nurse accompanying every police officer to every mental health call,” he said.
Haugli has also apologized to Wang.
“When I first saw the video, [I was] deeply concerned. I’m very sorry to Ms. Wang for what occurred. If that was my family member or friend I would have deep concerns and want answers as well.”
Wang filed a civil lawsuit in March against the RCMP officer in the video, who has since been placed on administrative duties and is facing a code of conduct investigation.