'We don't take this no more': Large crowd gathers in Iqaluit for Black Lives Matter protest

Iqaluit joined the rest of the world in a demonstration for Black Lives Matter on Friday in what protesters say is one of the biggest demonstrations the city has seen in recent years.

Protest Friday called upon Nunavut leaders to take decisive action against racism

A protester holds up a sign at the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Iqaluit on Friday afternoon. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Iqaluit joined the rest of the world in gathering for Black Lives Matter on Friday, in what protesters say was one of the largest gatherings they'd seen in the city in recent years. 

The protest is a call for action to support the Black Lives Matter movement, following the death of George Floyd who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Protesters called upon Nunavut leaders to take decisive action against racism in the territory.

The theme of the event, which happened around noon Friday, was "injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere," a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

At one point, standing in a circle around the four corners, demonstrators took eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence — the exact time the officer had his knee on Floyd's neck — to honour Floyd.

You don't see the life expire from the soul of all the people bleeding in silence.- Murielle Jassinthe, Nunavut Black History Society

Lekan Thomas, who regularly substitutes as a teacher at Inuksuk High School was at the Iqaluit demonstration. He said people of colour face systemic racism every single day.

"I'd like to see us acknowledge each other, as people of colour, and people within the community, " Thomas said. "I believe we've done a decent job at looking out for each other and helping each other. That must continue."

Clayton Greaves leads chants at the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Iqaluit. (David Gunn/CBC)

Looty Pijamini from Iqaluit was also at the protest. He said he doesn't like to talk about police negatively, but held a sign saying "stop police."

"It is important for me because I want to see everyone unite. It doesn't matter what race they are — black, Caucasian, Inuit — we need to be closer, we need to help each other more, we need to stand together," said Pijamini in Inuktitut. 

Nunavut's Black History Society helped organize the protest against anti-black racism.

"We want to bring that conversation to the forefront and create the space to have an honest conversation," said Clayton Greaves, a board member with the group.

"We know that these conversations are not easy ... We've been very comfortable for very long time and we've seen the appalling situations happening and everybody would agree in their separate corners that this is wrong."

Clayton Greaves is a board member with Nunavut's Black History Society. He says even thought conversations about anti-black racism are not easy, it still needs to be at the forefront. (David Gunn/CBC)

Greaves said it's important to bring that awareness to the forefront and have a courageous conversation, without judgment and "hopefully without fear of any type of reprisal."

"That's what we think we're hoping to spark," he said. "Not just the demonstration ... but continue that conversation."

Greaves said racism, colonialism and oppression are issues felt in Nunavut and thanked Inuit partners for giving the black community the space to express this. Greaves added that Nunavut has a rich black history, and that its something the group wants highlighted.

'Now is the time'

Organizers say the police brutality shown in a video from Kinngait, Nunavut, is also being taken on by this protest.

"As a community, as human beings, we can't just stand there and let this happen," said Murielle Jassinthe, also with the Nunavut Black History Society, adding anti-black racism is real.

Young people rally in Arviat, Nunavut, on June 5, 2020. (Submitted by Char Qaritaq)

"From Haitian descent, born in Canada — I know this kind of racism that nobody sees, not being represented anywhere else [other] than as a drug dealer or a prostitute, not having a voice."

She said it's now the time to act on the pain of those that face racism.

"You don't see the life expire from the soul of all the people bleeding in silence, so now is the time to say we don't take this no more."

Written by Amy Tucker, with files from Sara Frizzell and Toby Otak