In a showing of solidarity and support for the Black Lives Matter protests occurring in the United States and around the world, around 200 Campbell Riverites came out on Saturday to protest at Spirit Square.
The event was a peaceful and silent showing of solidarity with protesters fighting against systemic racism in the United States and abroad. Attendees listened as people affected by racism spoke, each telling a story about how a system set up to benefit the white people in power has left them behind. Speakers included people from the black community in Campbell River as well as First Nations and allies.
The protests started after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a Derek Michael Chauvin, a white police officer was videoed pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes in Minneapolis. Though Chauvin and the other four ex-officers Tou Thou, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane were fired and later charged in connection with Floyd’s death, it was only one of many minority deaths at the hands of police that have taken place in the United States and Canada in recent years. Floyd’s death set off a wave of protests that are fueled by anger at systemic racist and descriminatory policies in western society.
Speakers included Camisha Jackson, who spoke about how though she put herself through school, people have always assumed that she had help from a white person.
“I am so sick and tired of people undermining my success by people saying a caucasian person was behind it. I did it all by myself, and I’m educated,” she said, adding “We need to stand up for ourselves, finally… If we don’t we are just letting ourselves be oppressed, and that is not what we want.”
Other speakers included First Nations people, who also have faced years of systemic racism and abuse, including a disproportionate rate of deadly police encounters as well as the residential school system, land theft, poor living conditions on reservations and the effects of environmental degredation. Some white people also spoke at the event, offering to make amends and to do better moving forward.
One such speaker was Mamie Payne, who said that “we [white people] have to look stupid, we have to say the wrong things and we have to circle back every time with an honest heart and an openness to continue learning, continue listening and to get on our knees and to say we were wrong.”
The Campbell River protest was organized by Taylor Ellis, who said earlier this week that “racism is a problem in both Canada and in the US, and in Canada we’re just kind of brushing it under the rug. 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.”
Lakeshia Jackson, Camisha’s sister, also spoke at the rally. Lakeshia grew up in Campbell River and has ties to the United States. She wanted to thank people for coming to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and we’re struggling over there. I felt like it was right for me to come up here and voice my opinions and my thoughts and feelings… I’m mad, I’m sad, I’m scared, but I am glad you’re all here to support me. It would be doing a disservice to my ancestors to not get up here and say thank you to all of you who are down here right now,” she said.
The Black Lives Matter movement and associated protests are ongoing. Information about how to be anti-racist and to support those on the front lines as well as Black-owned businesses, charities and causes is readily available online. Organizers are asking white people and other priviledged groups to listen, learn, and support.