In solidarity with Americans and Canadians protesting the death of George Floyd, a local rally in London has garnered a lot of support.
Black Lives Matter London is hosting a physical distancing rally in London’s Victoria Park from 3 to 6 p.m. this Saturday.
“A protest is not a solution to racism, but it’s one step forward towards equality,” said recent high school graduate and organizer of the protest Ghaida Hamdun.
Tensions in the U.S. have been growing in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who pleaded for air as an officer pressed a knee into his neck.
Floyd’s death in Minneapolis came after tensions had already flared after two white men were arrested in May for the February shooting death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the Louisville police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her home in March.
Floyd’s death has sparked demonstrations throughout the U.S. and Canada against police brutality towards the Black community.
Hamdun said she was inspired to organize the rally after Floyd’s death and hearing about the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Toronto Black woman who fell 24 storeys from a balcony while officers were in her home.
Paquet’s death has sparked questions about the role of police officers in the incident.
“Just because racism is not documented does not mean it does not exist. Just because you don’t see it in the media does not mean it does not exist,” Hamdun said.
In response to the demonstrations in the U.S. and Canada, London Police Chief Steve Williams wrote on Twitter that he condemned what happened to Floyd.
“The London Police is fully committed to delivering bias-free policing to all residents and visitors to London regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orient, religion or citizenship. These expectations of our members are non-negotiable; others need not apply,” he wrote.
People at Saturday’s protest are being encouraged to remember the importance of physical distancing and staying six feet part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Hamdun said on Saturday they would be trying to provide as many masks and as much hand sanitizer as possible for those that need it.
Based on the number of people who responded on Facebook, she estimates they could see upwards of 500 people.
“When people’s human rights are at play, it’s absolutely appropriate our community steps up in support of those people,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, London Medical Officer of Health and CEO of the Middlesex London Health Unit.
Addressing the rally set to take place on Saturday, Mackie did not discourage people from wanting to go, but he did emphasize the need to take precautions like wearing a mask.
“When you have human rights abuses, it’s a very serious thing that people may be willing to take some risk for themselves and for society to demonstrate their support for those whose rights are being abused,” Mackie.
He is encouraging anyone who attends the rally to self-quarantine for two weeks and contact the MLHU if they start to get symptoms of COVID-19.
— With files from The Associated Press