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Forty-two arrests and counting

A young but seasoned activist’s story

photo by johanna dominguez


Shaimaa Aakil, thirty, has been immersed in political activism for most of her adult life. During a recent conversation in Niagara Square, as she and many others occupied the space in protest, this is what she had to say:


“First I was in the world of electoral campaigns and then I transitioned into issue-based campaigns when I became upset with what was happening in the world of political parties. I realized I had to focus on issues. I worked for the CEJ [Coalition for Economic Justice]’s Be True campaign and Metro Justice’s Fight for Fifteen, and Showing Up for Racial Justice, among others.


“Now we have people fighting against toxic racism who are outside of the nonprofit world and we never had that before. Twelve years ago, people didn’t know who their council members were, who their assembly members were. Now at least half of the people I talk to do.  When Trump became president, I was upset, but I was kind of happy because people were more active in their government. The current civil unrest has more people involved as well.


“We saw that a part of police funding directed toward ERT [Emergency Response Team] needs to be redirected toward the community, not reallocated to another part of that same toxic culture. When I say ‘defund the police,’ I mean take that money away and put it toward another part of the civil system. Police are not stopping rapes or assaults. They are not solving crimes. Rape kits aren’t even being tested. No more boots; we need more labs and more white coats.


“We don’t need 800 police officers. We need 400 good ones. Let’s reward good behavior; let’s solve assaults, let’s test rape kits. Let’s solve crimes, not make criminals.” 



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