Black Lives Matter - London Ont. Residents Attend Nationwide Rally to Defund the Police
On Saturday, August 29th, Victoria Park was once again flooded with hundreds of residents supporting the Black Lives Matter demonstration to defund the police. The protest, organized by Alexandra Kane, Ghaida Hamdun, and Keira Roberts, was part of a nationwide rally in support of BIPOC Liberation. Other than addressing concerns related to the interpretation of defunding the police, the rally paid tribute to Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, who passed away Friday after a 4-year long battle with colon cancer.
The protest kicked off with London-based rappers Casper Marcus and Gal Harper performing in memory of the Black lives lost to police brutality and made a call for action against systemic racism. This was followed by Hamdun addressing the crowd with a poem she wrote following the shooting of Jacob Blake. “To my future son, bringing you here is going to be a challenging scene, both physically and financially. That should be the least of your worries but you should learn about racism and police brutality”, she read. “They will shoot, and they will shoot without questions. I just hope they don’t shoot my little boy and send him up to heaven”
Kane, who is the spokesperson of London's Black Lives Matter movement, addressed the problems caused by police interference into Indigenous lives. She also highlighted the fact that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was indeed started as a way to colonize First Nations land. In addition, she addressed the misinterpretation surrounding the phrase “defunding the police”. She said, “Defunding the police is more than just taking away money from a couple of cops or organizations. It’s about reinvesting in us, reinvesting in mental health care”. She mentioned a tweet sent by the London Police Association chief Rick Robson and criticized its tone-deaf statement regarding defunding the police. In his statement, he mentioned, “A 50% decrease in their budget would do irreparable harm to the community and the police service. Defunding police would not achieve racial justice or improve the outcomes for these communities”.
Roberts, in an emotional statement, addressed the trauma faced by Black and Indigenous people while enduring police brutality and systemic racism. “Tell me, officer, why do you not like our existence?”, she said. “Do you not hear the horrific cries of Black men begging you not to take their lives in your head as you fall asleep?” She also mentioned that while some improvements have been made since the first rally in London which happened on June 6th, Londoners still have a long way to go to fight racial discrimination. “We haven’t received the most positive response from the police, but we will continue to do what we do until we see some change”, she said.
London Councilwoman Arielle Kayabanga also graced the occasion and shared her thoughts regarding the matter. “As a city councillor, a mother, a community builder, I want to imagine a city which is people-focused. I want us, together, to imagine a city which is no longer the 3rd highest city with child poverty. I want us to imagine a city where we can find homes for the 1000 people in this city who experience chronic homelessness. That’s the city I want us to imagine”, she said. “I want us to imagine if the Black lives we lost had received some intervention, then they could have been with us today. And I believe that we have the power, together, to imagine what that can look like and we have the power to bring that change”.
Following a couple of speeches, the rally marched towards Dundas Street and the London City Hall. Keeping in mind the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, safety precautions were taken with a group of volunteers offering masks, hand-sanitizers and refreshments. The streets echoed with chants such as “Black Lives Matter”, “Not Another Black Life”, “Defund the Police”, and “No Justice, No Peace”.
Another point which was raised during the rally was the importance of allyship, especially during such unprecedented times. “I want to urge all schools and universities to introduce allyship not just as a course where you can earn a 0.5 or 1.0 credit, but as an important life skill everyone of us needs to lead this movement”, a protestor said. Organizers Hamdun and Roberts also laid emphasis on staying educated about such matters and supporting marginalized communities. “Ignorance is bliss, you can go to bed at night pretending that nothing’s really happened. But the reality is that the BIPOC community has to face this brutality everyday before we go to bed”, Roberts said
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