Rally against white supremacy held at Queen's Park
Significant police presence spotted as demonstrators take to the streets
- Several hundred people showed up to the rally
Large crowds gathered at Queen's Park Sunday for a rally to denounce white supremacy.
On Facebook, approximately 6,600 said they would be attending The Unity Rally to End White Supremacy in Toronto, while about 12,000 more said they were interested in the event. The rally began shortly after 12 p.m.
- Rabbi calls on leaders to stand against white supremacy
- Dozens turn out to Toronto vigil for Charlottesville
Rally organizer Shannon McDeez was among the first to speak to the crowds on Sunday.
"We want to start a national conversation about white supremacy," McDeez said. "What we're talking about is white supremacy — its institutionalization, its radicalization and the fact that its being empowered by a disgusting political shift in the United States."
McDeez is a writer and communications specialist and says a Facebook post she created went viral and sparked Sunday's rally.
Toronto Unity Rally to End White Supremacy <a href="https://t.co/LyITtpKCw4">https://t.co/LyITtpKCw4</a>—@BizarroMack
She was joined by other community leaders, including Sandra Hudson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, in opening the rally.
"In these times of overt white supremacists organizing an action, the powers that be are focusing on black activists or 'black identity extremists,' as termed by the FBI," Hudson said, "and are continuing the blight of Islamophobic attacks that Trump has bolstered through policy and Trudeau has condoned with inaction in continuing to work alongside him."
Following the speeches, the rally began its march onto College Street where it continued up Yonge Street and went west on Bloor Street W., where demonstrators arrived back at Queen's Park.
The rally also managed to draw significant police presence as protesters held up signs protesting racism and Islamophobia.
Co-founder of the Coalition Against White Supremacy and Islamophobia Jeewan Chanicka says participating in the rally was important to him.
"The government is still talking about radicalization in really, really narrow terms focusing in on particular populations of people and they are not focusing on something that is rising in front of us."
The Unity Rally was held after a Toronto Nationalist Rally was anticipated to be held at the University of Toronto in September.
The university said the nationalist rally wasn't booked for its campus and it didn't communicate with the event organizers.
- U of T says no 'nationalist rally' to be hosted on campus
- Former white supremacist explains how radicals recruit
The Facebook group for Sunday's Unity Rally said the event was going ahead despite The Nationalist Rally not going forward because of beliefs that the group behind the nationalist rally was still active but just without a venue.
McDeez told CBC Toronto that it's crazy that she has to rally and that people are confused that white supremacy exists.
"It's okay to accept that white privilege is a thing as long as you can start thinking about how you can be productive with it and use it," she said. "I'm here to show that white people need to get involved. This is our fight as well. It's everybody's fight."
With files from Lauren Pelley