Thanks to the Facebook group Home Safe Every Night, about twenty people gathered on Monday night to protest Damien Starrett being released from jail. Damien is the 30-year-old Fort Saskatchewan “man” accused of the second degree murder of his one-year-old son, Ares Bishop, in November. He is also accused of assaulting his then-four-year-old daughter.
Up to ten RCMP officers were forced to stand guard outside the house where Damien will reportedly be staying. Protesters spread out on either side of the house, and the protest ended without any arrests.
An RCMP officer told a reporter that they were on the scene to maintain the peace and ensure protesters maintained social distancing protocol related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was tipped off about Damien’s impending release on Saturday and, on top of updating the blog, sent a flurry of emails, Facebook messages, and tweets to various media outlets and political figures. CTV followed up with Alberta Justice, which confirmed Damien was granted bail at a measly $1,000 on April 3, although the date and conditions of his release are unknown.
Reportedly, he plans to stay with his grandparents at their home near the corner of 82nd Street and 93rd Avenue in Fort Saskatchewan, a city in the Canadian province of Alberta. Fort Saskatchewan is about 16 miles (25 kilometres) northeast of Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton. The house is right around the corner from JD MacLean Park.
John MacEachern, a member of Home Safe Every Night, organized the protest and spoke with reporters. “I think it’s ridiculous,” he said about the mere thought of an accused child murderer being released on such an insanely low bail. “It just proves that our justice system is a joke.”
When asked about the purpose of the protest, Mr. MacEachern said, “Basically just to support Ares and his family and show the powers that be [that] we don’t approve.”
Damien is scheduled to appear in court on April 9.
“Obviously, a baby being beat to death by anyone, let alone a parent, had quite an effect on everybody,” Mr. MacEachern told a CTV News Edmonton reporter. “For four months later, the chance of him being released on bail on $1,000 surety, obviously touched a nerve with Fort Saskatchewan.”
The reporter also spoke with a neighbor, Mike Graham, who said he had already shown his own children photos of Damien, warning them to stay away from him. When asked what his reaction was to learning of Damien’s release, Mr. Graham said, “Little bit of anger; fear for the kids.”
Mr. Graham added that he didn’t want Damien living across the street from his home, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it. “If I do anything, then I’ll be put away, and my kids won’t have a father. I know what I’d like to do.” When asked what he meant, he said, “Same as a lot of people, I think: take it in their own hands.”
Mr. McEachern told reporters that the protest was not intended to incite violence but instead to pressure officials to keep Damien in jail or, failing that, to have him released to a halfway house elsewhere. “We’re not disturbing the peace. We’re not breaking any laws. We don’t have pitchforks and torches.”
Some members of the Home Safe Every Night Facebook group were unable to attend in person and instead tuned in via Facebook live or posted photos of candles lit in support of the Bishop family.
A reporter with CTV News Edmonton rang the doorbell of Damien’s grandparents’ home, but a man responded via intercom, saying, “No comment. Thank you.”
Mr. MacEachern posted the following in the Facebook group yesterday:
“For all the neighbours I talked to yesterday and for everyone in Fort Sask that would like to voice their concerns about the probability of having a drug addicted, child murdering piece of garbage walking freely in this town CALL THIS GUY!!!! Do it for Ares and his family, do it for your own children!
Scott Niblock (crown prosecutor) 780-998-1269”
So far, no one has been able to confirm or deny whether Damien has actually been released. His Facebook profile picture and cover photo were changed on Sunday night, but they appear to be older photos. A comment on a post made this weekend by Ashton Bishop, mother to both Ares and the daughter Damien is accused of assaulting, indicated that someone else had updated Damien’s profile for him.
The shirt he’s wearing in his profile photo, in case you can’t read it backward, says Fuck Shit Up.
Damien, or whoever was doing his Facebook updating, also posted an article from January about his request to be moved from the Edmonton remand center to the jail in Fort Saskatchewan due to death threats. (Is that the world’s smallest violin I hear playing?)
I just hope all the protesting, which is causing the RCMP’s resources to be spread even thinner than they already are during these uncertain times, will pressure those in charge into either keeping Damien in jail or sending him somewhere else where he will not pose a threat to the family he has already terrorized enough. I have not received responses to any of the messages I sent to elected officials on Saturday.
Sources: CTV News Edmonton, FortSaskOnline, Home Safe Every Night Facebook group, Facebook