March for racial justice fills downtown Ottawa
Demonstrators gathered in the thousands, chant 'I can't breathe'
Thousands of demonstrators chanting "I can't breathe" and "enough is enough" flooded through downtown Ottawa Friday afternoon, demanding an end to police brutality and anti-black racism.
The No Peace Until Justice march was sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. Floyd died May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him.
As they have across the United States and around the world, demonstrators in Ottawa called for an end to anti-black violence and police brutality.
The march began Friday at 3 p.m. on Parliament Hill and ended at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument, near Ottawa City Hall.
Just after 4 p.m., thousands of protesters in front of Centre Block kneeled for a moment of silence — for eight minutes and 46 seconds — in honour of Floyd's last moments while under arrest.
Ottawans take the knee again. <a href="https://t.co/B6P5ra23Y9">pic.twitter.com/B6P5ra23Y9</a>—@idilmussa
RCMP estimate about 5,000 people took part in the march. A smaller crowd of protesters, about 500 people or so, gathered outside the U.S. Embassy as well.
Among the march attendees were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his security staff, who at one point were encircled by protestors chanting "Stand up to Trump." Trudeau joined the protestors later and took a knee for Floyd.
Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly also attended Friday's march.
Protesters shout “Stand up to Trump,” as Prime Minister <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinTrudeau</a> attends an anti-racism rally on Parliament Hill. <a href="https://t.co/fvebwCtgPg">pic.twitter.com/fvebwCtgPg</a>—@PnPCBC
Demonstration organizers handed out masks and bottles of water to participants and encouraged physical distancing.
COVID-19 continues to spread in Ottawa. On Friday seven new cases were reported in the capital.
Imad-Aldiin Fadil, a participant in Friday's protest, was surprised so many people turned out to the demonstration during a pandemic but said it is a "testament to how we feel."
"We are basically all here today because you know we're tired of having targets on our backs because of the colour of our skin and also because we need to acknowledge that there is institutional racism in Canada."
CJ, 10 years old. <a href="https://t.co/FwIdp4cCm9">pic.twitter.com/FwIdp4cCm9</a>—@idilmussa
Through loudspeakers, organizers asked participants on Parliament Hill to try to stay two metres apart, however many were observed standing close together.
Most people were wearing masks, which public health officials say can help limit the spread of COVID-19 when physical distancing isn't possible.
Bianca Charron said while Canada is different from the United States, it does not excuse racism here at home.
"In Canada, I experience systemic racism all the time at my place of work [and] anywhere I go. So it's still very much alive and well."
Ottawa police were present at the demonstration, but largely stood back and helped direct traffic. Uniformed police officers were seen kneeling during the more than eight minutes of silence for Floyd.
In a tweet, the Ottawa Police Service called Friday an "important day."
"Thank you to the participants and organizers of today's peaceful march," the tweet said.
A number of downtown streets partially closed during the protest, including Wellington Street between Lyon Street and Sussex Drive. The Ottawa-bound lanes of the Alexandra Bridge were also closed.
Organizers on loud speakers asking people to observe physical distancing <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCOttawa</a> <a href="https://t.co/n4EbVXVXJk">pic.twitter.com/n4EbVXVXJk</a>—@hill_johnstone
Organizers on loud speaker now speaking of the death of Abdirahman Abdi, black man who died in 2016 after violent altercation with Ottawa police. Speaker says “Canada wake up!” as crowd cheers <a href="https://t.co/0gssAgp8mE">pic.twitter.com/0gssAgp8mE</a>—@hill_johnstone
People are chanting “I CAN’T BREATHE”. The march is growing significantly <a href="https://t.co/Jk5yifQkzq">pic.twitter.com/Jk5yifQkzq</a>—@idilmussa
Several hundred people have arrived at Parliament Hill for the rally against anti-Black violence and police brutality. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GeorgeFloyd?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GeorgeFloyd</a> <a href="https://t.co/IP89UjHWgk">pic.twitter.com/IP89UjHWgk</a>—@idilmussa
Will be tweeting from today’s march to denounce racism in Ottawa. Organizers handing out masks and water on Sparks street <a href="https://t.co/9HZUXAdTXY">pic.twitter.com/9HZUXAdTXY</a>—@hill_johnstone
With files from CBC's Trevor Pritchard, Idil Mussa, Hillary Johnstone and Natalia Goodwin.