Calgarians gathered in Fish Creek Provincial Park on Sunday to speak out about racism following the death of a Black man in the U.S. nearly a week ago.
George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a white police officer, who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during his arrest, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25.
Calgary police officers monitored the situation as dozens came together for the Rise Up Against Racism rally.
Attendees appeared to follow physical distancing guidelines, and police were on hand to keep the peace and ensure compliance with public health measures.
Organizer Mariette Jessup said the fact that Floyd died 1,900 kilometres away from Calgary means little.
“Even though it’s not our country, it’s not far away — especially for our kids, it’s right on their screens — we can’t process these horrors, let alone them,” she said.
On the topic of racism, Jessup brought up the indignities that First Nations people have experienced in Canada.
Jessup’s message is simple.
“We’ve got to examine our own hearts. Then we have to live it in our own homes, and then… we will see things start to change in our world,” she said.
Felicia Cornwall was glad to attend the rally because racism is not just an American issue.
Cornwall was pleased with the rally’s turnout.
“I love seeing all races, all seeds of people coming out to support because it’s not just the Black people who need to take a stand — it’s all the other races who need to take a stand for us,” she said.
Pastor Greg Smith with the Lutheran Church of Our Saviour said seeing acts like George Floyd’s arrest should spur people to action.
The Indiana man, who is a Canadian permanent resident, said he has not stepped out of a “religious silo” to speak the truth — until now.
“I think for too long, myself speaking, I’ve been complacent. I’ve had that white privilege and I’ve been kind of in my own little cocoon.”
“When we see it happen and it’s right there in our face… we have to speak and we have to stand up for justice,” he said.
Smith hopes this is the beginning of something powerful and that we can eradicate racism in our day.
It starts with love and getting to know each other, he said.
“We build relationships and bridges with people that are different from us, ethnically, religiously. We start seeing each other in the other person,” Smith said.
Attendee Tiffany Goebel said continued discussion and discourse will bring about change.
“One single event I don’t think is going to unravel hundreds of years of oppression,” she said.
Goebel said she was heartened that so many people went to the rally on short notice on a gloomy day to stand in solidarity.