Black Winnipeggers plan rally in solidarity with U.S. protests against police violence

The rally at the Manitoba Legislature at 6 p.m. Friday is being held in solidarity with events elsewhere and to draw awareness to racism and police brutality against black people here, Hope said.

Jayda Hope wants public to recognize institutionalized violence is not confined to United States

A demonstrator holds up a fist near a line of police during a protest Monday in Atlanta. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/The Associated Press)

Jayda Hope is feeling empowered, inspired and drained as she organizes a Winnipeg black lives matter rally as part of the worldwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., a week ago.

"My community and my people, we keep doing our best to make every rally peaceful, to make every gathering peaceful, and the police show up with violence and force," Hope said on CBC's Up To Speed Monday.

The rally at the Manitoba Legislature at 6 p.m. Friday is being held in solidarity with events elsewhere and to draw awareness to racism and police brutality against black people here, Hope said.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after he was held down by three police officers, one with his knee pressed against Floyd's neck. The Minneapolis resident had been accused of using counterfeit money.

The four officers involved in the arrest of Floyd have been fired and the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd's neck has been charged with third-degree murder.

His death and other deaths of black people at the hands of police officers have sparked protests across the U.S. and beyond. Protests in many places have become violent, with a police station set on fire in Minneapolis and accusations of brutality by police, who have used force to take control of streets.

Thousands of people have turned out for largely peaceful rallies in Canada, including in Vancouver on Sunday and Calgary on Monday, although violence has erupted in connection with protests in Montreal.

The positive response to the announcement of a Winnipeg solidarity rally is fuelling Hope.

"I see how quickly people responded to the call that we put out in the city, and it gave me a little bit of hope," she said.

Around 3,500 people rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, protesting against police violence and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Racism is "alive and thriving" in Canada, and police investigations involving black people sometimes fall short of finding the answers to questions raised by the black community, Hope said.

"Like many black people, when I see a police officer or hear from a police officer, it immediately just — it makes me very anxious," she said.

Members of Hope's family have been beaten by police, she said.

"People are constantly harassed by the police. They're pulled over unnecessarily," Hope said about black people's experiences in Winnipeg.

The rally is being organized at a time when public health orders prohibit outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened millions of people and killed hundreds of thousands around the world. There have been 297 cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba, and seven patients have died.

Organizers will remind rally-goers about public health orders around physical distancing, and masks, gloves and hand sanitizer will be on hand Friday, Hope said. It will also be live streamed for those who don't attend.

Organizers also are planning ways to prevent violence, as they want to demonstrate Winnipeg supporters are peaceful and non-violent, Hope said.

"We're hoping that that will show the police that there's no need to show up with violence," she said. "We're being peaceful, so everyone else needs to be as well."

Thousands of people gather for a protest in Vancouver Sunday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

All black people are encouraged to show up at the Winnipeg rally in some way.

"This space is for you, for you to heal, for you to be heard and supported by our allies who we are also encouraging to come out and support in any way that we have determined is necessary," Hope said.

Most speakers will be black, with some speeches by Indigenous people in an attempt to "recognize and strengthen" connections between the communities, she said.

Three Indigenous people — Eishia Hudson, Jason Collins and Stewart Andrews — were killed after being shot Winnipeg police officers in the span of 10 days in April. Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said in a news release Monday that those shootings have exacerbated tensions between First Nations and police here.

"There are several centuries of colonial injustices that overwhelmingly affect Black and Indigenous peoples that have led to the revolts and uprisings of the last several days," Dumas said in the news release.

Hope said the communities share similar struggles when it comes to the history of relations with police forces, but they are different.

"We can both show up for each other when it's time to show up," Hope said.

How to be an ally

Organizers of Friday's rally also are putting out daily calls to action this week and the first was specifically for allies.

"Educate yourself on how to be an ally every day," was the Monday call.

People who are not black can support the movement by following organizers' social media pages for regular updates as information gets released, Hope said.

They should also amplify the voices of black people who are "being very vocal about what's going on and standing up for our black community," Hope said.

"Just think about people that you know personally, maybe some people you went to high school with, maybe some people you know from some old jobs. Reach out to them," she said.

"Don't always ask them for information, but just reach out and see if there's anything that they need personally."

Hope said she remains hopeful.

"I have no choice but to be."

With files from Jessica Piche, CBC Calgary, CBC British Columbia and the Associated Press