"Black lives matter!"
Thousands of protestors gathered under the golden evening sun in the Jack Poole Plaza on Vancouver's Waterfront today.
People of all ages came out to participate in the anti-racism demonstration, which comes in response to the killing of George Floyd by a white Minnesota police officer last month, and in solidarity with widespread protests sparked by the incident around the globe. All four officers involved in Floyd’s death have now been charged.
In addition to the longstanding, systemic racism experienced by community members who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour, Canadian rallies have also been protesting the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black woman who died after falling off her balcony. Family members previously claimed Toronto police officers pushed her.
At the start of the rally, a speaker said, “every single black person matters," adding, “The first step to acknowledging racism is acknowledging that it is there.”
People passionately chanted "Black lives matter!" over a sea of skyward fists, while many others held up painted signs that called for justice, equality, and solidarity.
A speaker expressed: “I’m so angry that I worry for my own sister... I’m very angry. I’m angry that they’re killing our people on the streets every single day." Another speaker chanted that "Black trans lives matter!"
Many protestors that gathered in Jack Poole Plaza were white. The speakers acknowledged white Canadians' frequent discomfort when it comes to discussing racism, explaining how, “Silence has led to shame and fear... let’s focus on understanding our own privileges," adding, “You people love our culture but you don’t love us.”
While it was difficult to maintain a safe two-meter distance in the sprawling crowd, almost every face donned a mask. In addition, volunteers gave out masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. There was also a first aid station in the area.
The protest officially started at 4 p.m., but crowds began to arrive much earlier. Many people crowded near the water to get as close as possible to the stage, while others braved the grassy slope leading up to the roof of Cactus Club. While there are stairs that lead to the rooftop, police prevented people from using them due to concerns that the roof would collapse. Later on, volunteers were put in place at the rear of the restaurant to prevent protestors from climbing the grassy slope.
A speaker expressed that she should not have known racism at age ten: “I never thought growing up I’d have to stand up in front of thousands of people and say how I feel... but I’m done... we are all the same.. there’s no excuse for racism.”
The protest was peaceful, and there was no rioting or violence at any point.
However, the crowd spilled over from Jack Poole Plaza, flowing back as far as Cordova Street.
After dancing and clapping to Tupac's song, "Changes," thousands of protestors took a knee and, once again, began chanting "Black lives matter."
A speaker talked about Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women, and asked, "Why is suffering the lullaby that puts me to sleep every night?"
An eagle gracefully flew above the attentive crowd during a passionate speech. The speaker said, "They know we're coming."
A woman took the stage near the end of the rally and said, "I am standing here to say farewell to George."
She added that it is his time to rest, and our time to fight.
- With files from Megan Lalonde.