Calgary

Protesters gather in Calgary park in solidarity against anti-black racism, police violence

Multiple demonstrations against racism and police brutality are planned for Calgary this week, as pain and anger continue to rage across the U.S. and Canada over the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of white police officers.

Pain and anger have mounted in response to the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of white officers

Abel Haile wears a mask reading "I can't breathe" at a Calgary protest and vigil in memory of George Floyd, a black man who was unarmed and died at the hands of white police officers. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Multiple demonstrations against racism and police brutality are planned for Calgary this week, as pain and anger continue to rage across the U.S. and Canada over the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of white police officers.

On Sunday, protesters gathered in Fish Creek Park at 2 p.m. in a field near Bow Valley Ranche to speak out against racism.

As thunderclouds rolled in, around 100 people met in the park, standing two metres to respect physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"We should support our brothers and sisters down in the States. But it's not limited to the States, obviously Canada has its own issues," said Abel Haile, who wore a mask scrawled with some of Floyd's last words: I can't breathe.

"I think we just all need to get together. Support one another. Try to get equality."

The protests began and continue to rage in Minneapolis where Floyd, 46, died with police officer Derek Chauvin's knee pressed into his neck as he gasped for air and repeatedly told officers he couldn't breathe.

Chauvin has been charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder but the three other officers involved in the arrest have not been charged. All four were fired from the police force.

"It's very hard for me to listen … the mere fact that the video [depicting Floyd's death] is 10 minutes long and you watch his life slip away is unjust," Haile said.

Floyd's death is the most recent in a long line of high-profile killings of people of colour involving police.

In the U.S., the National Guard has been called in to nearly a dozen cities where unrest has grown in the face of what some videos have shown to be increasing aggressive tactics by police. In some other cities, like in Flint, Michigan, where a sheriff asked his officers to lay down their batons and join protesters, demonstrations have stayed largely peaceful.

"We need to be angry about this, but I see it as a sustained anger like a fireplace, rather than burning down the house," said pastor Greg Smith, who is from the U.S. but is a permanent resident in Canada. He said he sees racism in both countries.

"As racism is a daily reality we must battle it on a daily basis.

Protesters hold signs reading Black Lives Matter in Fish Creek Park on Sunday. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

In Toronto on Saturday, thousands marched to call for answers and an independent investigation into the death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died after police responded to a mental health call. Police say she fell to her death from a high-rise balcony. Her family says she was pushed by police. 

"I do not want my future children living in a world where men and women and children are being killed on the streets because of their skin colour. It's not OK," said protester Ali Donde through tears.

Donde, who is white, carried a sign reading "white silence equals violence."

She said the majority of white people don't take their privilege into consideration in their daily lives.

"We can't let other people fall on the ground without helping to pick them back up."

Around 100 people gathered in Calgary's Fish Creek Park to protest racism and police violence. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Three more protests are planned for Calgary later this week.

On Monday, a rally is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the River Walk Plaza in East Village.

On Wednesday, protesters plan to meet at 2 p.m. at the 10th Street Bridge in Kensington and will march through downtown before hosting a candlelight vigil at city hall to mourn those who have died at the hands of police.

A man kneels with his fist raised at a demonstration held in memory of George Floyd in Calgary on Sunday. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

And on Saturday, a protest will be held in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at 4 p.m. outside of city hall. 

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley called for Albertans to actively fight against racism in a video posted to social media Friday.

"Black people and people of colour have been the target of violence in the U.S., in Canada, and here in Alberta for centuries ... we cannot look at what is happening in the U.S. as someone else's problem," she said.

With files from Terri Trembath

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