Black Lives Matter: - London Ont. unites at Victoria Park to stand in solidarity
On the afternoon of June 6th, Victoria Park echoed with chants, “No Justice No Peace”, “I Can’t Breathe”, and “Enough is Enough” as over 10,000 people gathered to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement in London, Ontario. The protest was organized by five high school graduates; Keira Roberts, Ayanna Cole, Ghaida Hamdun, Djemma Toku, and Simone Anthonyson in light of the recent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The rally also remembered 27-year-old Caleb Njoko, who died in London on May 8th from falling off the balcony of his own home after his mother had called the police for help.
In an emotional statement given by Roberts, she said, “Many lives have been lost in our community due to police brutality, including Caleb. Losing another life so close in proximity to me was when I said enough is enough. The colour of our skin should not determine the value of our life”. The organizers shared their stories of being subjected to racial slurs, being targeted because of their skin, and fearing for their lives every single day. Caleb’s mother, Nelly Wendo, also graced the occasion and called for a change in the system to support the mental health needs of the Black community.
International speaker and educator Leroy Hibbert attended the rally and addressed his outrage regarding the recent loss of Black lives within Canada as well as across the border. “When I first saw the situation of George Floyd, I didn’t know how to respond. But when I was asked to come and do a brief presentation on this issue, I went home and reflected. And all I could come up is just these five words – Do you believe us now”, he said. “When you have prejudice which is married off to power, you’re going to have an unintended pregnancy which will give birth to an evil baby called Racism”.
The rally momentarily came to a halt when a group of agitators tried to disrupt the protest. The situation was handled gracefully by the organizers with chants such as “No violence”, “Don’t retaliate”, and “Keep the peace”.
Following a couple of speeches, the crowd marched from Victoria Park through Clarence Street and past London City Hall. Keeping in mind the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, safety precautions were taken with a group of volunteers offering masks, hand sanitizers, and refreshments throughout the rally. Protesters gathered with creative signs commemorating Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the Black Lives Matter movement. After the march, protests carried on peacefully on Richmond Street where cars honked and people stood outside of their houses holding placards in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Recently, the community expressed their outrage by participating in the #blackouttuesday movement where people posted a black square on various social media platforms in memory of the Black lives lost to police brutality. The city also commemorated what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday on June 5th. While the officers who asphyxiated Floyd face charges for second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree murder, the officers who shot Taylor still roam free. In such times, the debate of using the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ over ‘Black Lives Matter’ arose yet again amongst citizens. “When we say Black Lives Matter...we mean that all lives cannot matter until black lives matter” said Roberts. One protestor mirrored this sentiment stating, “The phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ takes away from the fact that there is a community which is facing torture and being killed because of their skin colour. It goes like this: If a house is on fire, it needs to be saved. The house which is not on fire needs no saving. All houses matter, but one of them is on fire, and that house needs to be saved.”
With the recent events of the US highlighting the discriminatory treatment against the Black community, it seems that Canadians are also rising to the occasion and acknowledging their struggle in fighting systemic racism and police brutality as many attendees commented on how London has been lacking in addressing the matter of racism as a whole. “The Mayor of London has been silent until we decided to stand up and make this protest happen,” a fellow protestor said. The protest also served as a medium for many to be educated about what discrimination and systemic racism stand for. “Racism is not just an act, it is a system which--even when all of us go home--we still have to deal with. Sure people will get angry and say ‘I’m not racist’, but that ignorant statement just shows that you are,” one protestor claimed.
It was incredible to see that it took just five high-school graduates to bring the town together to support this humanitarian cause despite a deadly pandemic going on. People gathered irrespective of their race, their creed, or their skin colour to stand in solidarity and to condemn such heinous acts against humanity. With this protest, London took its first step towards bringing change and putting systemic racism to an end. The organizers hope for a long-lasting impact so that no other Breonna Taylor is shot dead and no other George Floyd is asphyxiated by racist cops.
Londoners can support the Black Lives Matter movement by following their Facebook and Instagram Page. They can also donate to their page on GoFundMe. The money donated will be given to charities which support the movement.
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