Walking past the people-less protest she had set up two days earlier with a number of her peers, Agartu Ali noticed something was off. She realized quickly the papers depicting the names and stories of the victims killed or injured in police interactions were removed.
Ali believes the intent was “malicious.”
“The homeless people in that area encouraged us and said kind words and participated in helping us when we put it up, two days prior and it was fine,” she says, adding that it wasn’t until the protest made the news that something happened to the display.
“It’s not a coincidence that the day after the news got ahold of our story … the following day everything was ripped down,” says Aminah Ibrahim, co-organizer of the display.
Ibrahim says what happened is “symbolic” of Canada.
|A people-less protest is holding space for the lives lost to systematic racism and police brutality. (Courtesy of Zara Chaudhry)|
“Trying to silence the police brutality that we have in our own nation and the subtle racism … by taking down the names of people who’ve lost their lives — it was a form of silencing by someone in our community,” she says.
The display highlights more than 40 people hurt or killed in police incidents. Both Ali and Ibrahim say racism is alive and well in Canada and can tell you about the many times they’ve felt it in Victoria.
“I feel like people in Canada like to pretend we live in this race-free dreamscape and pat ourselves on the back for this multicultural paradise,” says Ali. “When we ignore race and we ignore people’s background, we allow the underbelly of the cesspool of ignorance in Canada to drain the life out of people of colour — quite literally.”
On Friday, the public is invited to join as organizers gather at noon to rebuild the display into “something bigger and something louder and something that’s harder to remove.”