Thousands rally against racism and police brutality at K-W solidarity march
'Being a black person in Canada isn't as easy as people say it is,' says 17-year-old
The streets of downtown Kitchener have been relatively empty for months — but on Wednesday evening, thousands of people marched through the city's core, rallying against systemic racism and police brutality.
People gathered at Gaukel Street and Charles Street at 5 p.m. near Victoria Park for the K-W Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter. The rally was organized in unison with other protests across North America following the death George Floyd in the United States, along with several other police killings of black people.
"Being a black person in Canada isn't as easy as people say it is," said Ebony Smith.
The 17-year-old from Cambridge came to the solidarity march with her friends to represent her community. She said people often don't recognize that racism exists in our own backyards.
"I deal with a lot of micro-aggressions. I deal with a lot of discrimination and social injustice," said Smith. "I dimmed my blackness. I dressed a different way. I would speak a certain way to prevent people from feeling uncomfortable."
Smith said hearing about the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor has left her scared.
"Am I next?" she said.
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Smith was surrounded by people of all ages and backgrounds, chanting "black lives matter." The majority were wearing masks, which organizers said were mandatory. Although for the most part, there wasn't physical distance between people, which regional authorities said they were concerned about.
It’s hard to say how many. Hundreds. All ages. Everything I’ve seen has been peaceful. They’re walking along King Street now. The people keep coming. <a href="https://t.co/PIbACjIeek">pic.twitter.com/PIbACjIeek</a>—@JHazlewoodCBC
'Being silent is being complicit'
Several police officers were present, riding along protesters on bicycles.
Euraysia Duhaime arrived before the march started. In watching the coverage of Floyd's death over the past days, she said her first impulse was to be silent.
"But then I thought this is not me. Being silent is being complicit in the system," Duhaime said.
She said it's the memory of her grandmother, who was from Barbados, that inspired her to speak out and take action as a light-coloured person with privilege.
"This is not just a black people problem, this is an everybody problem," said Duhaime.
Andy Wareing said he's been reflecting on his privilege over the last week. He came to the march because "enough is enough."
"As a white man, I am privileged," said Wareing. "There's not much we can do to stop that privilege, but we can do our best to show our solidarity and say that we're here for them, for everyone, together."
'First step to a better future'
Monty Ben Khayal also wanted to show support for his black friends which goes beyond words. He grew up in Libya and said he understands the realities of racism.
"I want to make sure I stand on their side," said Ben Khayal.
He was encouraged by the peaceful nature of the KW march, but said the violence at riots across the U.S. has made him sad.
Olivia Johnston and Rebecca Prince marched together. Being part of the rally was an important way for them to recognize that racism against black people isn't just a problem in the U.S.
The last week has been one of sadness and reflection for them, as they've learned more about the recent police killings of black people.
"I've been wildly overwhelmed and terrified and sad. Just a lot of disbelief this is happening in 2020," said Johnston.
"For a person of colour, it's just been really overwhelming mostly," said Prince."Things like this are a first step to a better future."