As protests are taking place south of the border, it’s bringing the issue of racism to the forefront in Edmonton.
“This doesn’t stop at an invisible 49th parallel, it’s not like all of sudden you walk over the border and it’s just peace and heaven and everything’s good — this is happening in our own country,” Jesse Lipscombe, co-founder of #Makeitawkward, said.
George Floyd, a black man, died Monday in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest, sparking demonstrations in many cities, many of which have turned violent.
Ever since Floyd was killed, Lipscombe has been following the protests.
“I get it, I understand it, I wish it didn’t have to go as far as it did in some cases but I fully understand why that’s happening. The ‘why’ is what we need to focus (on how) to fix (this) so it doesn’t happen,” Lipscombe said.
As an anti-racism advocate, he says, violence and racist acts are issues here in Edmonton even if the incidents aren’t captured on camera.
“This is not just now for me — this is all the time for me — this is just now for a lot of people who are seeing things for maybe the third or fourth time,” Lipscombe said.
“It hurts, it sucks to know how you are viewed in the eyes of a lot of people, not all people.”
Derek Chauvin, the officer seen on cellphone video kneeling on Floyd’s neck, is now in custody and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Civil rights lawyer Avnish Nanda says here in Edmonton, he’s heard many stories from minorities who have had bad experiences involving police.
“I get called maybe three or four times a day from people saying they’ve had a negative interaction with police, or they were dealt with in a manner that was excessive — that force was used when it was not required.
“More often than not those are Indigenous and black people,” Nanda said.
In reaction to Floyd’s death, the Edmonton Police Service shared on social media Friday that: “Police brutality is not ‘part of the job.’ As law enforcement, we have to do better for all community members that we serve. Our condolences to the family of George Floyd and all members of the black community.”
Advocates say we can still do better.
“We don’t really have a system in Alberta or in Edmonton where these concerns are really taken seriously and investigated,” Nanda said.