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Calgarians rally against racism after George Floyd’s death

Calgarians rally against racism after George Floyd’s death
WATCH: As protests and riots spread across the U.S. and Canada after the death of George Floyd, Calgarians gathered in Fish Creek Provincial Park to raise their voices against racism on Sunday. It's the first of a number of protests planned in the city. Adam Toy reports.

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.

READ MORE: Officer charged with murder in George Floyd’s death had knee on his neck for nearly 9 minutes

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.

READ MORE: ‘They keep killing our people’: Demonstrations held across U.S. after death of George Floyd

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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.

“When you start talking about pushing back against hate [against] our First Nations people and racism, sometimes with people you feel you’re close to, it gets awfully quiet,” she said.

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.

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People rallied against racism in response to George Floyd’s death in Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Alta., on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
People rallied against racism in response to George Floyd’s death in Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Alta., on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Adam Toy/Global News

Felicia Cornwall was glad to attend the rally because racism is not just an American issue.

“The injustice is happening, not just in the States; it happens here in Calgary. It’s not as blatantly as being a knee on the ground on your neck, but being racially profiled and pulled over, [asked] for ID or people calling on you just because of the colour of your skin. It happens here all the time, too,” she said.

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.

READ MORE: ‘Let’s walk’: Police in some U.S. states are joining George Floyd protesters

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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.

READ MORE: George Floyd protests: Canadians living in the U.S. say rioting causing angst and unrest

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.

“We have so much in common and there [are] too many voices that are trying to divide us. We just need to get to know one another on that one to one personal level and I think that’s the way we begin to start bridging the gap and seeing the commonality that we all have.”
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George Floyd death: Police fire tear gas in Montreal to disperse crowds during solidarity protest
George Floyd death: Police fire tear gas in Montreal to disperse crowds during solidarity protest

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.

“[We need to be] supporting people who speak out against it, supporting the folks who experience it and educating everybody about the true history of Canada and the fact that racism systemically and individually does occur here and we can change it but it takes doing something,” she said.
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