“We are here today to remind people who say that racism is not a problem in the centre of Alberta. We are here to raise a little hell, ” said the speaker Dieulita Datus, of Lacombe, Alberta.
“our life of all those who were lost in the slave trade of the Atlantic … for the indigenous peoples who have lost their lives due to disease and famine, and defending their land … to the lives lost in residential schools … to the lives lost to police brutality … for the muslims who are targeted every day … in memory of all the sisters, stolen, girls, indigenous murdered and missing … in memory of George Floyd,” said Datus, with every injustice on his list, followed by the cry, “we are here to raise a little hell” echoed through the crowd.
It was a strong participation for an event that has almost not taken place.
When the organizer Brittany Bovey has announced for the first time its intention to hold an event in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in a message on social networks two weeks ago, she was greeted by a torrent of comments and threats and racist hate, which prompted her to cancel the rally.
The mayor of Innisfail has first stated that he had never known that racism was a problem in this city of 8 000 inhabitants. The reaction was swift, prompting the mayor to apologize for his comments, admitting that what he said was not a reflection of the experience of the citizens.
He is committed, with all the members except one of the city council, to stand in solidarity with the demonstrators anti-racist and to give her support for that the event of Saturday may be filled safely.
“I acknowledge and accept fully that I have a lot of learning to do on the subject, and I pledge to do better. I would like to take advantage of this situation as an opportunity to inform me on many issues related to racism which I know far too little. My ignorance personal, in this case, was simply inexcusable, ” said mayor Jim Romane prior to the event.
Romance was there Saturday, speaking on stage and kneeling down with other protesters, ready to listen. He said Innisfail has been an influx of newcomers and non-whites in recent years, as the resident filipinos and syrians, which he is keen to support and learn.
“It is a peaceful movement that we support and we want to keep it that way. We want to listen to and learn from “, he said.
There was a moment of tension during the event, when a man on a motorcycle was dark in the middle of the gathering, turning his engine and shouting ” all lives matter “, as well as some counter-demonstrators. He was greeted by a chorus of voices responding to “the life of The Black account,” and was quickly escorted by the police.
The event was one of hundreds across the United States and Canada, ignited by the murder of George Floyd, a black man of 46 years who was killed in Minneapolis when a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he lay disarmed and handcuffed him, telling the officer that he could not breathe.
Canada’s relationship with systemic racism and police violence has also been put under the spotlight.
This week, the RCMP commissioner and the chief administrative officer of the RCMP in Alberta are all incomes by denying the existence of systemic racism.
The RCMP is the subject of further scrutiny this week when the video of the violent arrest of an indigenous leader in the northern Alberta has been released.
On Friday, the RCMP shot and killed a member of the Mi’kmaq community in New Brunswick.
“The whole world is watching at the moment and we must take responsibility for what is happening in the world,” said Theresa Cardinal, who is cree and lives in Red Deer.
“There is so much structural racism built on the dispossession and genocide of my ancestors that the people are not aware of. There is so much education that needs to be done … growing up, knowing the color of my skin, I knew that I was going to be treated differently.
The protesters have requested that the funding of the police should be diverted to community support agencies.
Mrs. Datus thanked the RCMP officers present at the event Saturday and said that while she appreciated their individual presence, large-scale changes are necessary.
“When we talk about définancement of the police, we call for change, not for your jobs,” she said.
The event Saturday was renamed a protest in a ” community conversation “.
And the event was accompanied by many conversations and debates.
Dax Williams, a black Man who has travelled from Red Deer to close to the event, spoke patiently for nearly half-an-hour with a white man in the crowd, breaking down the misconceptions around racism.
Williams has said he has found the advantage of speaking with someone who does not share his opinions.
“the are a lot of people who have questions and would like to discuss what is going on … this guy was not dissimilar to what I see when a lot of people are just frustrated, “he said.” e think it is always worthwhile to put yourself out there and talk to people. ”
Datus said that the crowd of allies, who attended the event and the conversations that accompany it give him hope.
“we are here in the midst of the pandemic … to lend our voices and say we want to change. If this is not an optimistic, I don’t know what that is, ” she said.