Several hundred people gathered in downtown Peterborough, Ont., Tuesday for a Black Lives Matter Rally to protest the death of American George Floyd.
The rally began at noon at Millennium Park which saw people march north on Water St. to the Peterborough Police Service station and then to nearby Confederation Square across from City Hall. George Street was closed to traffic during the rally.
Floyd died last week in Minneapolis while being arrested by a police officer who was later charged with third-degree murder. The death sparked nationwide protests and rallies demanding racial equality and justice for Floyd’s death.
Given the continuing coronavirus health crisis, many of those in attendance were wearing masks. Organizers had encouraged participants to practise physical distancing prior to the start of the rally.
The Peterborough Police Service issued a “statement of solidarity” to reaffirm its commitment to “bias-free policing” and the right for people to gather in peaceful protest.
“In a world where systematic racism has been embedded by a history of colonization, we understand that we must continuously reaffirm this commitment which is reflected in our core values: Integrity and loyalty, empathy and fairness, respect and civility and courage and leadership,” the service stated. “The Peterborough Police Service continues to work with community partners to achieve safety, inclusion and well-being for all.”
Police chief Scott Gilbert criticized the arrest method used on Floyd after an officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck to pin him down.
“That’s not professional policing,” Gilbert told Global News Peterborough. “And that’s certainly not the image or the training that any of our officers have had.”
Gilbert put the service’s statement to action by also kneeling as a sign of solidarity with those at Confederation Square.
“For the nine minutes I was kneeling on the concrete on a surgically reconstructed knee seemed like an eternity,” he said. “But at the same time I was thinking what went through his mind while that officer was kneeling on his neck.”
One organizer – who declined to provide their name – said racism exists everywhere, not just in the U.S. or larger cities.
“Honestly, the message that I want people to take away is to be aware of the violence and the atrocity as a black people that we face everyday,” he said. “Racism has not gone away and that it’s something we face everyday as soon as we step outside of our homes.
“I think it’s just important to be aware. To keep learning. To educate yourself. It shouldn’t be on the notion of black people to educate you. It’s also on white people to educate their peers and their pals.”
More to come.