Several protests took place in Canada on Friday, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis during a police intervention, the disturbing images of which sparked days of sometimes violent protests in the United States.
In Ottawa, the rally was organized by No Peace Until Justice, a movement launched by a young black woman, to bring together activists, organizations and allies in a show of solidarity against police brutality and societal racism.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, escorted by security guards, attended the rally, where he listened to speakers’ speeches, sometimes nodding in agreement.
He also applauded the words of one speaker saying that everyone should face the alternative of “being racist or anti-racist”. He reacted the same way when the crowd chanted “Black lives matter”.
The Prime Minister even dropped his knee to the ground in solidarity with the other demonstrators gathered on Parliament Hill. He repeated the gesture when the crowd observed a moment of meditation for the nearly nine minutes during which George Floyd was kept on the ground, a knee pressed against his neck, until he ran out of air.
The route did not include a stop in front of the American embassy, but the march still led there. The embassy announced on Twitter Thursday that the building’s lights would be dimmed for the next nine nights in honor of George Floyd.
The protesters remained peaceful, chanting and waving signs that read “Demilitarize the police” and “Say their name” – a slogan inviting people to remember and name the victims of police brutality.
The organizers asked the police to stay away and stressed that they had not invited Mayor Jim Watson, who said he would be at the event. The group also said it was opposed to any live broadcast, capturing and taking photos during the demonstration to protect the identity and safety of those present.
On the side of Toronto, where the police have kept a low profile, more than 10,000 demonstrators took to the streets under a blazing sun, with signs on which they had notably written “Racism is also a pandemic” and “Silence is violence ”.
Surprised by a sudden downpour, the participants gathered, their fists raised and their knees on the ground, before dispersing.
” We’ve had enough. We need change and we don’t trust the police, “said one participant, named John Coleman, after problematic police interventions recently made headlines in Canada.
“To bring about a change”
Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, kneeling on the ground in solidarity with their cause, after meeting with a group of protesters with other uniformed officers. “We must all stay united to bring about change,” Chief Saunders, who is himself an Afro-descendant, later said on Twitter.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford applauded his move as a sign of “real leadership.”
In preparation for the Toronto demonstration and others planned in the same city this weekend, several businesses on and around Yonge Street in the downtown area have barricaded their windows. The Eaton Center closed until Monday as a precaution.
Also in Ontario, hundreds of anti-racist protesters also gathered at Barrie City Hall on Friday.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the videos and reports that have surfaced across the country in recent weeks “troubling”. These included an incident between an Inuit man and the RCMP in Nunavut and the death of an Aboriginal woman at the hands of a police officer in New Brunswick.
Although each case needs to be investigated, Trudeau said the larger problem of systemic racism in the police service has been around for a long time and needs to be addressed.
“We know that for far too many racialized or Aboriginal Canadians, the reality is, when [ils sont] confronted or when they interact with authorities, can be extremely different from that of the majority of Canadians. We face systems where discrimination is present. And we have to [les] switch. “