Demonstrators rally in downtown Halifax against racism, police brutality
Demonstrators knelt and chanted 'I can’t breathe' to protest the death of American George Floyd
A large crowd of demonstrators clogged a downtown Halifax street on Monday evening, chanting "I can't breathe" and "no justice, no peace" to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died during a police takedown in Minneapolis.
Demonstrators in Halifax took a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video pressing his knee into Floyd's neck. Floyd's death on May 25 has touched off protests and riots across the United States and Canada.
The rally in Halifax was peaceful. Demonstrators cheered and chanted as cars, and even city buses, honked horns in support. Spring Garden Road was closed to traffic for several blocks to accommodate the crowds.
Organizer Sharisha Benedict asked for no violence.
"The only way we can be heard is if we do it with peace, because if we expect peace, we give peace," she told a cheering crowd.
Benedict asked the crowd to kneel for the first minute in silence "for everybody that we have lost."
She later told CBC News she was moved to act after watching the widely circulated bystander's video of a handcuffed George Floyd pinned to the pavement by the neck until he stopped breathing.
"I'm tired," said Benedict. "It was the straw that broke the camel's back."
She added the sheer numbers of people who turned out in Halifax was a positive sign for change.
"I never imagined this. This means that we have strength in numbers and I love to see it."
Many prominent African Nova Scotian activists addressed the crowd, including DeRico Symonds, who helped to organize rallies last year against police street checks that government data showed has disproportionately targeted black residents.
Leading the crowd in chants of "No More", Symonds urged them to remember the images of George Floyd's death and to push for change in their local communities by getting out to vote.
"Let this be a turning point," he said. "Halifax isn't going to take this s--t no more."
Police at a distance
Halifax Regional Police kept a discreet distance on side streets throughout the hour-long rally that began on the steps of a shopping centre. It continued at a nearby intersection with a block party that included hip-hop music by the 1980s rap group NWA, which has courted controversy for its anti-police lyrics.
The rally also comes five days after the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Toronto woman with Nova Scotia roots who died after falling from a high-rise building while police were in her apartment.
Her death has also prompted demonstrations in Canadian cities, including Halifax, as residents demand answers.