Approximately 100 people gathered for an anti-racism demonstration in front of Terrace city hall June 7.
The demonstration was part of a global wave of protests against systemic racism that began in the United States when George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis May 25.
It was ostensibly a rally in support of Black Lives Matter, but demonstrators decried racism in many forms. Organizers said the rally was also to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Some demonstrators held signs bearing the name of Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman from Vancouver Island who was shot and killed by police in New Brunswick on June 4 after moving there to be closer to her five-year-old daughter.
Chants including “no justice, no peace,” and “black lives matter” were punctuated by heavy gusts of wind, though it was clear and sunny. Plenty of demonstrators wore medical masks and some wore gloves. Many cars driving past on Eby St. honked, with some drivers and passengers giving thumbs-up to indicate support.
A handful of demonstrators took up a megaphone to share stories and messages with the crowd.
Mina Lwal told the crowd she had faced racism at school in Kitimat.
“They referred to me as ‘the ugly black girl.’ … Every time I walked down the hall, I’d hear them whispering, or behind my back in group chats they’d talk about it,” she said. “You know what, I’m owning it today. I’m not an ugly black girl, I’m for sure a beautiful South-Sudanese woman living in Canada today, in front of all of you.”
Lwal asked the crowd to be as loud as they possibly could for all the chants that day.
“This movement is not going anywhere, and we, as a people, are not going anywhere because we’re strong,” she said. “We are all one race, and that’s the human race, and we all deserve to get treated as equal because at the end of the day, I bleed the same as you do, and I cry the same as you do.”
Amber Webb, who is black, shared with the crowd some words written by her father.
“A group of National Guard members went down on one knee in solidarity … This is what we need, rather than the hatred and violence spewing out of the White House which poisons the US, Canada, and the world,” she said. “Our government, cowering inside our houses of Parliament, lacking the courage to stand up to a bully or call a lie a lie, is not anything to admire.”
Webb’s father’s words also touched upon economic inequality.
“At the heart of all of this, our countries have become quasi-democracies, where the real power lies within the wealthiest ten per cent. If we do not serve them, they will hurt us,” she said to the crowd. “Surely we will look at the bullying power and luxurious life of the few, beside the poverty, suffering and powerlessness and ask ‘can we allow this modern form of slavery to continue?’”
There were some criticisms of the rally voiced in the comments of a post in the Terrace Community Bulletin Board on Facebook (though most comments were supportive.)
“I absolutely think there should be non-violent protests, but not for this. There is significantly more black-on-black crime and no one bats an eye. Where are your protests when that happens?” wrote Brittany Joyce. “What are you accomplishing?”
One commenter raised safety concerns regarding the pandemic.
“I hope folks are maintaining proper social distancing,” wrote Warren Wilson.
One of the organizers of the event, Shea Kurisu, acknowledged the risk of gathering a crowd during this pandemic but said the rally was essential work. Organizers handed out free masks to demonstrators. Ultimately, Kurisu said, demonstrators were each responsible for their own safety.
Kurisu said she organized the event because her husband and two children are people of colour.
“I see the injustices that people of colour live with every single day, and I wanted to use my white privilege and my voice to raise the voices of those that aren’t being heard,” she said.
Jillian Kofoed, who organized the event alongside Kurisu, said she organized the event because she hasn’t done enough to stand up to racism.
“Silence is compliance. I am not a racist, but I never said anything against racism,” she said. “We’re continuing to educate ourselves about all of it, we’re not perfect, we’ve still got a lot to learn. That’s part of the reason why we’re doing this today is because we needed to hear the voices of the people that this affects first-hand.”