Saskatchewan

Regina rally against anti-black racism features 8 minutes, 46 seconds of silence

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement gathered again in Regina Friday morning to show solidarity with widespread demonstrations against racism and police brutality in the United States and Canada.

2nd Black Lives Matter rally held in Regina this week

Hundreds gathered for the second rally in Regina, showing solidarity for Black Lives Matter and widespread demonstrations against police brutality and racism in the United States and Canada. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Abdi Gure was moved to tears as he addressed the crowd at a rally for supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement on Friday in Regina.

"It gives me hope, that's why I cried today," Gure said. 

"It's emotional to be outside in 2020 [talking] about whether my life and people who look like me — that their life matters. This is so insane, what are we trying to do? We are not 300 years ago when slavery was just everywhere. This is 2020. We thought people have changed …  why not your life, other people's life in question? Only mine?"

Gure is the vice-chair of the African Canadian Resource Network, which brings together about 15 African community organizations in the city. 

He was among hundreds who attended the rally to show solidarity with widespread demonstrations against racism and police brutality in the United States and Canada.

Abdi Gure, the vice-chair of the African Canadian Resource Network in Saskatchewan, said he regularly meets young people of African descent who feel isolated in the community. (CBC News)

The protests were ignited by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest.

People at the rally were silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds before erupting into the lyrics of Amazing Grace

Gure said the silence was very emotional. 

"I just can't imagine what George felt, when a police officer had his knee ... more than eight minutes and he was crying for help and for a chance to breathe, I can't imagine how painful that is," said Gure. 

People at the rally erupted into Amazing Grace after eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Gure said the main purpose of the event was to honour George Floyd and show support for people of African descent in the United States, but that speakers also wanted to raise local concerns. He said problems in Canada and Saskatchewan are not as severe as those in the United States, but are still prevalent. 

"We are meeting every day young people who are isolated from the community, who are born here, raised here in Saskatchewan, in Canada, and who can't still belong to this country," said Gure. 

"That's what I deal with every day." 

There were cheers from the crowd when Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said "black lives matter." He said he felt the need to say he was sorry.

"What I'm promising you today, and what our police officers that are here today are promising you, is that we need to use our positions, whether we are in the police service, whether we are members of the community, whether we are people that are demanding change, it doesn't matter, we need to come together as a family, as a community," said Bray, who took a knee at the end of his speech.

African organizations in Regina created Friday's event, according to the Facebook page. 

Police Chief Evan Bray took a knee following his speech at Friday's rally. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

The page said the groups are calling for "sustainable transformation in our communities."  

"We are appreciative of your support toward the Black community and toward addressing anti-Black racism," the page says. "This is a public event and everyone is welcomed." 

Participants met at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum before 11 a.m. CST and marched to the Saskatchewan Legislature, where a similar rally was held on Tuesday.   

Due to COVID-19, people were being urged to practise physical distancing. Organizers said there would be masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and water.

2nd Regina rally this week

Tuesday's rally saw hundreds gather for nearly two hours, sharing their personal stories of racism, feelings of pain and words of encouragement. 

Their chants included "No justice, no peace," and "Equality for all."

At one point, the large crowd all kneeled as an organizer read out the names of black people in Saskatchewan and elsewhere who have been killed.

Obianuju Juliet Bushi acted as master of ceremonies and coordinated Friday's rally in front of the legislature building in Regina. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Black Lives Matter rallies have been held in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Hamilton, Edmonton and Calgary, among other cities. More than 1,000 people attended a rally in Saskatoon on Thursday night. 

Another Black Lives Matter rally is planned for Sunday in Regina.

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