Ottawa

Demonstrators against anti-black racism urged to practise COVID-19 safety

Ottawa Public Health and people involved in planning Friday's "No Peace Until Justice" march are encouraging participants to wear masks and practise physical distancing at the gathering.

Marchers in Ottawa asked to wear masks, carry hand sanitizer, consider drumming instead of shouting

A protester holds up a sign during a demonstration calling for justice in the death of George Floyd and victims of police brutality in Montreal, Sunday, May 31, 2020. Ottawa is holding a "No Peace Until Justice" march, from the U.S. Embassy up to Parliament Hill, on Friday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa Public Health and people involved in planning Friday's "No Peace Until Justice" march are encouraging participants to wear masks and practise physical distancing at the gathering.

Organizers with the march against anti-black racism, planned to start at Parliament Hill at 3 p.m., posted advice for people on Facebook regarding COVID-19, including making sure they don't attend the demonstration if they have a cough, sore throat or other signs of the respiratory illness.

Gloria Mavambu Rabson, a volunteer with the march, said she wants to be cautious. 

"I'm making sure I don't have any of the symptoms listed, because I don't want to harm anyone else," Mavambu Rabson said.

 

Organizers will also be distributing masks, water and snacks on the day of the march, she said. Ottawa Public Health has said even asymptomatic people can spread COVID-19 and masks help limit transmission where staying two metres apart isn't always possible. 

Protests in the United States on Thursday were largely peaceful and the nation's streets were calmer than they have been in days since the killing of George Floyd set off anti-black racism demonstrations south of the border and around the world.

Organizers behind "No Peace Until Justice" in Ottawa say the goal of the march is to bring together black activists, organizations and allies to speak out about police brutality and racism at home.

"We're bringing attention to the injustices that the black community is facing in the U.S. but we're also highlighting the injustices that the black community is facing in Canada," Mavambu Rabson said.

Brent Moloughney, Ottawa’s associate medical officer of health, says people participating in protests should wear a cloth mask, try to keep their distance from others, and consider ways of making noise other than shouting or chanting. 1:11

'Racism is a public health issue'

Brent Moloughney, associate medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health, said demonstrators should take precautions given the presence of COVID-19. 

This situation, like so many others in recent weeks is "unprecedented," but that given the importance of the issue, it is up to individuals to decide how they participate, Moloughney said.

"Racism is a public health issue and Ottawa is not immune," he said.

Data suggests marginalized and racialized communities have been more affected COVID-19 and are more likely to have serious outcomes, according to Moloughney.

"It's up to individuals to make that decision about whether they attend or decide to participate another way, say virtually."

Moloughney shared a few recommendations for demonstrators:

  • Maintain physical distancing as much as possible.
  • Wear a cloth mask.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and keep your hands clean.
  • Consider using signs or drums, instead of shouting or chanting, which "tends to have droplets go farther."
  • Clean all items after the protest which may be contaminated.

Mayor Jim Watson, who said he will be attending Friday's march, also stressed the importance of physical distancing.

"Please do your very best to respect social distancing," said Watson.

Ontario extended its state of emergency until the end of June, which limits gatherings of more than five people.

Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency and protective services, said the city is not granting a permit, but said allowing the demonstration is a matter of balancing people's democratic rights.

"We won't be issuing tickets. Police won't be issuing tickets," Di Monte said. 

"Our simple role will be to assure public safety. We're working with police so we'll ensure that roads are closed so people can walk and be a safe distance."

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story said the march would begin at the U.S. Embassy on Sussex Drive. Since then, organizers said the march route has changed. It will begin at Parliament Hill at 3 p.m., and organizers will release details on the full route of the event on Friday morning at 10 a.m.
    Jun 04, 2020 8:23 AM ET

with files from the Associated Press

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