Victoria Park anti-racism rally hears messages of love and unity

Around 250 people gathered at an anti-racism rally in Victoria Park, on Wednesday, August 17, 2017. Liny Lamberink/AM980

Unless protesters filled Victoria Park, spilled out into the streets of London, and reached all the way to suburbia, Sara Slade wouldn’t have been happy with the turnout at Wednesday’s anti-racism rally.

“I’m so happy for all of the people that came here,” she said of the roughly 250 people gathered at the park’s front gates Wednesday evening in a show of solidarity against hate following events over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

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“But this is a huge and very white city, and this tiny group of us are the only ones willing to come out and stand up against white supremacy.”

The peaceful demonstration came in response to the violence at a massive white nationalist rally in the American college town over the weekend, where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a white supremacist plowed his car into counter-protesters.

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People for Peace London and the London chapter of the Council of Canadians organized the event.

Police patrolled nearby, as a pair of musicians led the crowd in songs of inclusivity and love, while speakers at the event condemned racism and violence.

“If we’re not outraged, we’re not paying attention,” said organizer Wendy Goldsmith, of People for Peace London, echoing a message scrawled on one of several signs held up by participants.

Slade’s sign read: “Silence like a cancer grows,” a purposefully non-combative message that she said reflected some of her frustration.

“I don’t know what it takes for people to wake up. I don’t know when they’re waiting to say something, how far along the path of following World War II we need to get.”

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Karen Reese calls London home now, but was born and raised in the United States, where many of her family members live and face racism themselves.

“They’re going through it all the time there,” Reese said. “You don’t want your uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, not able to go out and have a wonderful life, but to go out the door and wonder if they’re going to be shot or brutalized.”

London, she says, knows what needs to be done to address racism.

“We all have to watch what we say, [and] we all — including myself — have to watch what we do, and be more responsible and sensitive to what’s going on in this world.”

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On August 26, Pegida Canada, a group with anti-Islam views, is organizing a rally in front of London City Hall.

As Wednesday evening’s rally drew to a close, David Heap of People for Peace urged Londoners to take part in a counter-protest.

“They’re not prepared for the love that we have,” he said.


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