The candles may have been flickering out in the early evening breeze, but the sense of strength and solidarity among the crowd was tangible.
More than 100 people – many of them youths, but a significant number in the parent and grandparent generations – gathered on the sidewalk outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment at 18 Avenue and 152 Street Monday night to remember South Surrey’s Hudson Brooks.
Planned as a candlelight vigil, the 7 p.m. event soon took on the aspect of a protest rally before dispersing just over an hour later.
It was a year to the day – and in the same location, still marked with flowers and balloons – that the 20-year-old was fatally shot in an early morning altercation with police.
In an initial press release after his death, the RCMP described Brooks as “suicidal,” but it’s a characterization that has been rejected by family and friends. A year later, many questions remain unanswered about the incident, in which a police officer was also wounded, but in which – police have confirmed – only RCMP-issued firearms were present.
Those close to Brooks – and others in the community – also question why it has taken the Independent Investigations Office, which probes police-involved incidents resulting in death or serious harm, so long to complete the investigation.
Carrying signs with pictures of Brooks and cheer-led by several organizers, including Brooks’ longtime friend Bailee Pearson and his mother Jennifer Brooks, the crowd kept up chants of “What do we want? – justice!” and “Justice for who? – Hudson!”
Youths who blocked the near traffic lane in front of the detachment offices and the Semiahmoo Library also exhorted passing drivers to “honk for Hudson” – and many responded.
RCMP officers kept a respectful distance from the demonstration, mostly watching from across 152 Street, where several police cruisers were parked.
The peaceful nature of the event was marred only once, when a passing driver knocked a sign out of the hands of a young girl standing with several others.
Pursued by angry youths, the driver pulled his car over at the 18 Avenue intersection and got out. Blows were exchanged before police moved in rapidly, detaining the driver and questioning the girl who had the sign snatched from her hands.
Standing by the shrine established in the landscaped planter-garden in front of the detachment, Jennifer Brooks thanked the crowd for coming to mark the anniversary of her son’s death.
“He was tragically taken from us – stolen from us – a year ago today,” she said, adding that she has been told by the IIO that the investigation will be complete by Sept. 20.
“If we don’t receive answers by then we will march again Oct. 9 for ‘Justice for Hudson’,” she vowed.
“We don’t have any answers.”
Her son could not have been armed that evening, Brooks insisted.
Donna Kreiger, 72, also said Hudson could not have been carrying anything that would have been perceived as a weapon.
“He left his backpack at my daughter’s house that night – he had nothing on him,” she told Peace Arch News.
She noted that many who attended did not even know Hudson, but came to show support for the ‘Justice For Hudson’ cause.
One of these was William Stewart, who told PAN he has two sons in their early 20s.
“I wanted to come down here,” he said. “I think it’s outrageous that something like this happens and outrageous how long it is taking (police) to get answers – it seems like they’re hoping this will all blow over.”