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Hundreds gather for Kelowna anti-racism protest

Hundreds of people gathered in Kelowna's Stuart Park to peacefully protest June 5 to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
June 05, 2020 - 2:16 PM

Hundreds of Kelowna residents convened to Stuart Park this afternoon to stand up against racism and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The protest was set up as an open mic, allowing residents to share their stories throughout the day.

"I really appreciate all of the support, I know there was a little bit of controversy but I’m so glad we stuck with the root of this protest, this peaceful protest, and that is to unite and not divide,” said one of the organizers Paige Harrison, addressing a crowd of roughly 700 people.

“This is an opportunity for you to share. I know that sometimes the black community can feel a little bit sheltered within Kelowna, ostracized. I’ve experienced that with being half-black so we want to give an outlet for people, people of colour and even white allies to have an opportunity to share,” she said.

The protest was organized as one of many that have been held across the world, honouring George Floyd, a black man, who was killed last week when a white police officer in Minneapolis subdued him by placing a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, despite his pleas that he couldn't breathe. The incident was caught on video, sparking outrage at police brutality against black communities worldwide.

The protest wasn't without controversy, however, as some organizations backed out of event, including a black student association which posted that they would not attend the rally because they were not consulted prior to the event being organized.

Kelowna resident Fred Gale was critical of the protest, saying that it felt more like a party and wasn't being taken seriously.

“They’re not angry. I’ve seen on TV riots during the civil rights era. People were angry and things got done,” Gale said. “I saw that as a kid and I didn’t understand, as I got older I still don’t understand. It’s still going on, it will never go away.”

Clarissa Mewhort, an Edmonton resident who also took a turn at the mic, said she’s had experiences in Edmonton where she was harassed for walking down the street with her best friend, who is black.

“It’s important to make people angry about it. It’s important to make people realize we can be better and we can be mad and we have a duty and a right and a passion to say no to casual racism,” she said.

Winni and Cameron McIntosh created signs to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement during a protest in Kelowna, June 5.
Winni and Cameron McIntosh created signs to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement during a protest in Kelowna, June 5.

“I don’t know if this is the right way to do this. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never had to fight for my right to exist… to say that we’re doing it right here, that’s not my call, but it’s better to do this than do nothing and I think this is an important first step for a lot of people, where it may be their first protest, or first time standing up and saying ‘this is what I believe in.’”

A candlelight vigil will be held tonight at 8 p.m. to honour the black men and women who have been impacted by police brutality.

READ MORE: Why a Kelowna black student association isn’t attending Black Lives Matter protest today

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