Hundreds gather for Black Lives Matter solidarity rally in Regina
'If we all come together as one, I think we can definitely change a lot of things,' organizer says
Hundreds of people stood outside of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building on Tuesday to show solidarity for Black Lives Matter.
The rally in Regina comes as protests continue throughout the United States following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for a number of minutes.
Protests have also spread throughout Canada, including one in Montreal and Halifax.
Organizers of Tuesday's rally in Saskatchewan say racism is a problem here as well.
"A lot of people here think that Canada isn't racist," Faith Olanipekun, one of the organizers, said. "So it's important for us to come out, voice our concerns and let people know that we are suffering in Canada just as much as people in the U.S. are suffering."
The rally began at about 11 a.m. CST, with the crowd chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "We want justice, peace, freedom." Speakers included organizers and Speaker of the House Mark Docherty.
CBC reporter Alex Soloducha is reporting live from the event. On mobile? Click here.
Olanipekun is a University of Regina graduate and black activist. She said the rally is for the black lives lost in the United States and in Canada.
"I want people to know that we cannot be silenced," she said.
Olanipekun said many people come to Canada for opportunities and to be safe but there is bias and discrimination when they arrive.
"We want people to identify and understand that this is happening to us and we need to all be united and stand up for each other because we all bleed the same blood at the end of the day," she said.
Olanipekun said she has faced discrimination herself in Canada. She said people told her to go back to where she is from, she's had to change her last name to get job interviews and more.
"Little things like that add up and it really causes a strain on mental health for black people in Regina, in Canada," Olanipekun said. "We're just bringing a focus to that."
"This is happening, this is real, and we are frustrated and we want something to change."
Olanipekun said she wants Caucasian people to be allies, call their MLAs, amplify black voices, stand up against micro-aggressions and discrimination, and add their voices to the calls against systemic racism.
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The reaction to the rally gives her hope, Olanipekun said.
"The response to this event has been amazing.… It's amazing to see people coming out to support — and we want that to continue even after this is over," she said.
"If we all come together as one, I think we can definitely change a lot of things."
'Vandalism is not acceptable': Moe
Premier Scott Moe tweeted earlier Tuesday to condemn an act of "vandalism" at the war memorial at the Saskatchewan legislature.
"Peaceful protest is always welcome at our Legislature, such as the rally taking place later this morning against racial injustice. Vandalism is not acceptable," the premier said on Twitter.
Peaceful protest is always welcome at our Legislature, such as the rally taking place later this morning against racial injustice.<br><br>Vandalism is not acceptable. Last night, the War Memorial near <a href="https://twitter.com/SKLegAssembly?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SKLegAssembly</a> was vandalized. This is outrageous. <a href="https://t.co/Q1y7OiKTI6">pic.twitter.com/Q1y7OiKTI6</a>—@PremierScottMoe
Moe's tweet shows the war memorial with "Justice for Floyd #BLM" written on it in spray paint.
Moe told reporters later Tuesday that he understands why hundreds of people gathered to protest racism, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
He praised those who rallied lawfully and said he was travelling during the protest so couldn't attend.
He also said he's horrified by Floyd's death and the police use of tear gas on peaceful protesters, and that racism has no place in society.
Meanwhile, a Regina artist did a chalk drawing of Floyd on the sidewalk in front of the legislature in advance of Tuesday's event.
Zoe Stradeski said she got permission to do the piece from her MLA, Nicole Sarauer.
Police, Sask. Roughriders join calls
The Saskatoon Police Service, Regina police and Saskatchewan Roughriders are adding their voices to the calls for equality of all peoples following the George Floyd protests.
"We were left feeling shocked and appalled at the events on May 25 that led to the death of George Floyd," the Saskatoon Police Service said on social media.
"The action, and inaction, of the police officers involved was unacceptable, but we offer today that they are not representative of the policing profession as a whole."
The SPS said officers are held to a higher standard and should hold their core values of honesty, integrity, compassion, fairness, respect, and more during each interaction.
The SPS said it has people helping guide them as they develop and deepen relationships with the diverse Saskatoon community but that the work is not done.
"We are committed to maintaining and enhancing the strong community support that is necessary for a safe, secure, and healthy community," the police service said.
The Regina Police Service tweeted a similar statement around 10 a.m. CST on Tuesday. It called the actions of the officers involved in George Floyd's death "inexcusable and unacceptable." It also said Regina police are working to build an inclusive, diverse and understanding police service.
"We are all hurting right now," the statement said. "Community safety means a community free of racism and we all have a role to play."
The Saskatchewan Roughriders also put out a post, saying the community, team and fan base are diverse.
"We grieve with you over these overt acts of racism and injustice," the Roughriders said. "No one should live in fear because of the colour of their skin."
With files from The Morning Edition and the Canadian Press