Thousands attended a peace rally for Black lives in downtown Victoria, filling Centennial Square to the brim on Sunday afternoon. Sparked by the death of George Floyd, massive protests have erupted across North America and worldwide.
“We as a society, especially in Canada, feel that we aren’t racist,” said Vanessa Simon, co-organizer of the Peace Rally for Black Lives.
“Just because you don’t see it in the news doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. There are many examples of micro-aggressions and police brutality.”
More than 4,000 people were expected to show at the event and peaceful protesters were seen atop parking lots, in stairwells and any open patch of grass. Dozens of Black speakers shared their experiences with racism and led the crowds in chants and calls to action.
“People who still have the perspective that ‘All Lives Matter’ aren’t unifying us,” said Simon.
“There’s always going to be people that aren’t happy with our approach, some think we aren’t being aggressive enough. The goal here is to unify first and then begin our calls to action. We’ve got a long way to go and it’s more powerful than having angry black people saying ‘this is what needs to happen’ or ‘we hate police.’”
As an adopted child, Simon grew up in a white home.
She says she not only faced racism within her family, but in school and as a black woman currently. She’s learned to care less about what others think about her and now she’s more concerned about being heard. The occupation of Centennial Square is her best example of that.
When Simon organized the Black Lives Matter protest on Monday, June 1, she expected to be walking on her own. But word spread quick and many attended to march from Centennial Square to Parliament. Now, she’s added two more co-organizers.
“We’re not trying to take this entire movement on by ourselves,” said 23-year-old Asiyah Robinson.
“When the onus is on one person, the dream can die. We’re here as a transparent collective to show that it’s OK to burnout and run out of energy. We will carry this and when you’re ready, we will bring you back in to join the movement.”
“I wear the maple leaf every day but the first thing I wear is my skin,” says Pam Buisa, one of the organizers of this rally and a Canadian rugby player. #yyjnews #yyjforBlacklives pic.twitter.com/gMuP214AJ4— Shalu Mehta (@ShaluMehta32) June 7, 2020