Black Lives Matter: Kitchener attendees reflect on U.S. protests and local movements

KITCHENER — Despite a global pandemic and social distancing measures, protesters and police had no problem with a public gathering of roughly 36,000 in the name of social justice at Victoria Park in Kitchener, Ont., on Wednesday June 3, 2020.

GALLERY: Kitchener protesters at Victoria Park.

The Black Lives Matter movement has once again erupted across the U.S., parts of Canada, as well as other countries all over the world after the murder of George Floyd, a black man, originally from Fayetteville, N.C., who was accused with forgery. He was left dead after the now former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

At this time, Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder. The three other officers who were at the scene, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

(Left to right) Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao’s mugshots. Photo from Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

What compelled you to come out here today?

“It’s really close to my heart ’cause I’m biracial and part black and honestly like, stuff going on down south, so absolutely upsetting like, literally like brought me to tears like I haven’t experienced overt racism in my life but definitely like I had experiences where I’ve been excluded. I haven’t been let in somewhere. I’ve been followed around a store because somebody thinks that I’m stealing something just because the colour of my skin. So this cause super close to my heart,” said Kirsten Weltner of Kitchener.

“I think it’s very important to — even though we are in the middle of a pandemic — show your support for an important cause and just raise awareness for it. Today I also donated to a local charity as well, I just wanted to like — not just be … spreading the word — that’s important, but I wanted to be involved with the actual action, that’s why I want to be out here today,” said Andrew Davidson of Waterloo.

“I think the turn out is good man, everybody is showing their voice and fighting for justice, fighting for the peace. Racism has been going on for way too long and I’m tired of it. I don’t wanna die by the hand of police, I’ve got a daughter and I wanna live for her. A lot of people — a lot of black men in the world got their daughters or sons who they wanna live for,” said Delondo Hidvert, an attendee at the march.

“I have experienced anti-black racism in my place of work … that would be your Ontario government.”

Laura Mae Lindo, Kitchener Centre MPP (New Democratic Party)
Kitchener Centre NDP MPP, Laura Mae Lindo. Photo from Linkedin.

“You cannot see what is happening behind the shades and the mask … behind the shades are tears because I am looking so far down the street and I know there is hope for my five-year-old son. I just want you to know that I have experienced anti-black racism in my place of work … Catherine Fife and I have experienced anti-black racism in our place of work — that would be your Ontario government … We stand in opposition to anti-black racism in our place of work. We stand in opposition to ableism in our place of work. We stand in opposition to anti-indigenous sentiments in our place of work. We stand in opposition to sexism in our place of work,” said Kitchener Centre NPD MPP, Laura Mae Lindo during her speech before the march on Wednesday.

She also condemned Ontario Premiere Doug Ford’s recent comments about systemic racism on June 2, 2020 during his live press conference.

“Who stands up and says ‘we don’t have systemic racism here?'”

Photo from Doug Ford’s Twitter, @fordnation

“They have their issues, there’s no doubt, they have their issues in the US — they have to fix their issues, but its like night and day compared to Canada and the U.S. I’m proud to be Canadian, I’m proud to be the premier of Ontario. I know Canadians just won’t tolerate it and I won’t tolerate it and I’m sure every leader in this province won’t tolerate it. So again, good luck to them, and hopefully they can straighten out their problems. Thank God that we’re different than the United States and we don’t have the systemic, deep roots they have had for years,” said Ford.

After facing criticism, Ford later back-pedalled on his comments.

“Of course there’s systemic racism in Ontario, there’s systemic racism across this country,” Ford said a day later.

“I know it exists, Mr. Speaker, what I don’t know is the hardships faced by those communities. And a lot of us in this chamber do not know the hardships within those communities, Mr. Speaker,” Ford continued.

“I do not have those lived experiences and I can empathize with them. But again Mr. Speaker, a lot of us have never lived that, we’ve never walked a mile in someone’s shoes that has faced racism. Not only just in the black community, a lot of minority communities, throughout the history of Ontario and Canada have faced racism.”

Ford also faced criticism after his government cut funding for anti-racism initiatives. He then put $1.5 million in funding towards an advisory group to tackle inequality last Thursday.

What do you think of Doug Ford’s comments?

“I have to disagree with that [Ford’s comments]. Honestly, like, maybe it’s not quite as overt as the south, but we still had slavery in Canada, like it’s absolutely untrue. It might just be like deeper, but it’s still there, there’s absolutely systemic racism in Canada,” said Weltner.

“I’m not really a historian or anything, but, most of the stuff I learned about slavery or systemic racism is usually in America, so I’m thinking he has a point there but I don’t know much so I can’t really say,” said Ofi Yemani of Kitchener.

Do you think the chaos, looting and the violence take away from the main purpose of the protests in the U.S.?

“Yeah, for sure and I definitely like, I totally understand that people are angry, they’re fed up. It’s unfortunate because I think that there are certain people that do take advantage of situations like this who just want to cause chaos. And like, you know, loot and steal and whatever and I think it does. It takes away from it a little bit, but I can’t, I can’t blame those who are like that. They literally have nothing left to lose some of those people. And like they don’t know where to turn. They don’t know what to do. Like, I don’t know, obviously, I don’t wish her violence but like, I can’t even I can’t even blame some of it,” said Weltner.

“Like many people, I am saddened by the events that are happening there, but I think that it’s important to realize that something like this needs to happen in order for us to change the systemic racism that’s within our society … I think it does take away from it but I think it’s important to focus on the positive aspects. There have been many positive stories of people protecting stores, of fighting for what’s right, going in solidarity with local police officers that are in support of such a movement. I think those are the stories we need to focus on not on the vandalism,” said Davidson.

“Honestly man, as far as I can read back in history it’s been going on for my people right? It’s about time for something to come into change. We’ve been struggling, we’ve been having a hard time — since the day they brought us from our homeland right? It’s about time for something to happen. It’s tragic. I have family in the United States. I wake up sometimes and I don’t even know if they are going to make it home safe,” said Orain Davis of Kitchener.

“A cop killed a black guy, but we’re not going to look at all cops and say all cops are killers right? We have a protest, we’re going to have one, two in a hundred that’s going to want to do bad things. No matter where you go, no matter who — what culture, what ethnicity you wanna look at — there’s always a bad one in the group,” Davis continued.

“Honestly man, it’s amazing, I love to see it. I’m even here and I don’t even see that much people of colour, to be honest with you, which makes me a little bit sad because I’m from Kitchener, I know how many of us are here. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen one of my friends. But I really appreciate Canadians for their … (inaudible) … I’ve witnessed racism yes, but nothing to what I’ve seen happen in the states. I’ve seen it here, I’ve been through it here, I’ve witnessed it here.”