An anti-racism rally, led by organizer Vanessa Sjo, took to the streets of downtown Victoria Monday, June 1, in solidarity with movements taking place across the U.S. and Canada. Another rally is planned for Sunday. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)

Vancouver Islanders gathering to rally for Black lives

‘To speak up, all you need is a voice and the will to be heard’

Residents across Vancouver Island are rallying in a show of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.

CAMPBELL RIVER

Campbell Riverites are planning a silent protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement this weekend.

The event will be held at Spirit Square on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. The organizers are planning a silent protest to show solidarity with Black people and people of colour who have been silenced due to systemic racism in the United States and in Canada.

“We’re going to stay silent as long as black people are being silenced,” said Taylor Ellis, one of the organizers of the event. She added that they’re planning the event “to show we support the movements down there and also to remind people that Canada isn’t innocent, and this is happening here too.”

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On May 25, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed in Minneapolis after a white police officer was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. An autopsy concluded that Floyd’s death was a homicide. Derek Chauvin, then an officer with the Minneapolis Police, was charged in connection with Floyd’s death. Floyd’s death was only one of many that have occurred in similar fashions in the last few years, prompting protests and riots across the United States and around the world.

Ellis is organizing the Campbell River event to show that people are not willing to tolerate racism.

“Racism is a problem in both Canada and in the U.S., and in Canada we’re just kind of brushing it under the rug,” Ellis said. “It’s easier to just look at the States and what’s going on down there and say that ‘Canada’s not that bad.’ I feel like we need to shed light on how it’s also happening here. We can’t ignore it and say it’s not that bad here. It is and we need to bring justice to the people who have been murdered for the colour of their skin.”

Though no official record exists in Canada about the number of people killed in police encounters, a CBC database shows that Indigenous and Black people are disproportionately affected by police violence.

The protest will be made while following social distancing protocols. Weather permitting, chalk circles will be drawn to ensure people stay two metres apart. Organizers are asking people to wear masks as well to ensure the safety of all participants.

“We’re going to make some extra signs, but we probably won’t make enough for everyone, so make your own sign if you want to have one,” Ellis said.

A Facebook event has been started with more information.

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NANAIMO

A protest in Nanaimo will show solidarity with Black Lives Matter demonstrations happening around the world.

A Black Lives solidarity demonstration is planned for Friday, 3-5 p.m., at Maffeo Sutton Park, according to an event post on Facebook. The event is described as “a peaceful gathering and an opportunity for black people to speak our experiences and for those who care about them to listen.” There will also be stories, poetry and song.

“Stand in solidarity as we grieve the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery in the U.S., acknowledge the reality of anti-black racism in Canada, and vow to end systemic racism, racial violence, and police brutality,” the event post notes.

Participants are asked to wear a mask, observe physical distancing and consider self-isolating for 14 days after attending.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam suggested earlier this week that signs and noisemakers are comparatively safer ways for demonstrators to express themselves as “shouting and that type of behaviour can potentially project more droplets.”

For more information about the solidarity demonstration, visit the Facebook event page.

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COMOX VALLEY

The Comox Valley will be holding its own rally to support the Black Lives Matter movement this weekend.

Local organizer Georgia Rogers said on a Facebook event page that she put plans together to hold a peaceful event here in the wake of the recent death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn.

“I noticed that there wasn’t much happening on the Island in response to what is taking place around the world,” she said. “I wanted to do something more than just post on social media.”

The local gathering will take place Saturday, June 6, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Simms Millennium Park by the parking lot.

Rogers will be providing some signs and water bottles. There will also be a bottle for donations. She says attendees should not feel required to stay for the whole two hours, but she would like to see people come offer support.

”Please consider taking some time out of your day to take a stand against racism and let your voice be heard,” she said.

She adds the event is being held outdoors in part to accommodate social distancing measures. People should wear a mask if they have one and consider bringing their own signs.

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VICTORIA

A peace rally will be held in Victoria on Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. in Centennial Square.

“You don’t need to be an ‘activist’ to speak up for what matters. You don’t need to be a ‘protester’ to speak up for what matters,” reads the rally’s Facebook page. “To speak up, all you need is a voice and the will to be heard.” 

Attendees are asked to wear white to show peace, bring signs, wear masks and try your best to social distance, along with bringing candles for a vigil to honor Floyd.

On Facebook, more than 1,500 people have said they will attend the event and another 3,000 have expressed interest.

For more details visit Peace Rally for Black Lives – Victoria on Facebook.

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kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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