Toronto's March For a Change
George Floyd protests come to TorontoEtay Kuperman
For the past week thousands of people demonstrated from across the world in 13 different countries demanding immediate action concerning police brutality and systematic oppression of people of color in one of the biggest civil rights protests in history.
This explosive movement was sparked by the viral video that captured the brutal killing of American George Floyd which occurred on May 25th, 2020. The now infamous act of injustice was filmed in Minneapolis Minnesota and depicts officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyds’ neck for a total of 8 minutes and 45 seconds, while two other officers restrained George and one officer stood watch. George later died as a result of injuries related to this event. Protests occurred in all 50 states and throughout Asia and Europe. On Friday June 5th it was Toronto’s turn, with the March For A Change occurring in downtown Toronto.
The day started off with some controversy. This event was not sanctioned by either the Black Lives Matter Toronto organization, nor any other notable black empowerment organization from the GTA. As a result, the march’s legitimacy was called into question all over social media. Nevertheless, articles written by BlogTo, CityTv, the CBC and other major Canadian news outlets cited the event as a peaceful protest that would commence at 12:30 pm at the intersection of Young and Bloor.
Protesters arrived on the scene as early as 11:00 am occupying the south east corner of the major Toronto intersection. People of all different walks of life were in attendance. There were protesters of all ages and colors, there was even a visible LGBTQ+ presence with many patrons carrying rainbow flags. “Honestly Bro, this is amazing, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life….”. Said one of the organizers Tremaine Nelson, whom I caught up with in the middle of the march.
The march started at 12:30 sharp with a moment of silence, then the protesters were off. As the protest made its way around Toronto, people would leave their respective stores and business to take pictures and join in chants even if it was just for a moment.
Throughout the day chants included “No Justice No Peace”, “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands up don’t shoot” among others. Another way protesters were able to show their individuality was through creative signs that were brought, including the words “mace a cop call it peppa pig”, “news flash POC’s are not threats (duh)” and “Racism is small dick energy”.
As the day raged on speakers were blasting, the crowd was cheering, and morale was great. Sargent Saunders and the rest of the Toronto police force guided the protest and ensured everyone’s safety. “..they’re locking off the streets, were going in a circle freely police are helping us do this, its amazing”. Said Tremaine Nelson regarding the police assistance throughout the day.
As the march continued, the weather worsened. The rain began to come down hard, but that did not stop the protestors. The crowd stood strong and through the harsh weather and chants grew louder as people’s commitment to the cause became tangible as the soaking wet crowd marched to an end. The march ended nearly three hours after it started in the pouring rain with a few words from the march’s organizers at the corner of Dundas and Young. Then after one more moment of silence, protesters were free to go home and reflect on their day.
With all the sudden traction for the Black Lives Matter movement even though the movement was founded in 2013, its always a concern that this will just be a viral trend and have very little staying power. “When you look at how people respond online that’s definitely how the trend idea comes in, when you see people reposting the same exact black squared a lot of people want to say its just a trend, and to be honest only time will tell”. Said one of the protesters Ryan Almond Rock after the protest. The black square Ryan is referring to, was a symbolic effort that took place primarily on Instagram throughout Tuesday June 2nd where people from around the world would post black squares along with the caption #BlackOutTuesday in support of George Floyd and the black lives matter movement. There were over 22 million black squares posted however, an online petition circulating calling for the arrests of the officers included in the George Floyd incident had just over 13 million signatures the same day.
As march’s turn into riots in the united states the growing concern is that it’s unclear what will cause the protests to end completely. Now that the officers responsible for George Floyds death have been charged, protest leaders have not come to a consensus on how to dismantle the racist institutions that cause inequality in America and how to bring the rioting to a halt. But the organizers and community leaders believe it’s in the hands of the younger generation to take charge and make a stance. Earlier in the week I caught up with the founder of the zero-gun violence movement, a man by the name of Louis March. Louis has been a volunteer and an advocate for the African Canadian community for over 30 years. “its up to the younger generation right now, because there’s only so much my generation can still do. You know you guys are limited physically with all that’s going on, but not mentally. You guys gotta plan and put your minds together and its up to you to keep the movement going long after I’m gone”. Said Louis concerning the future of the zero-gun violence movement.
Only time will tell whether this is a trend or not and if these protests bring any change in future legislation. But this past Friday the patrons of Toronto showed that even amidst a global pandemic we were able to band together and show that we are not a city that remains silent in the face of the oppressor.