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Black Lives Matter solidarity march planned for Kitchener on Wednesday

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Thousands of people have indicated on Facebook they will be attending a solidarity march for Black Lives Matter in Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo region on Wednesday.

“We as the KW community will peacefully march in solidarity for the lives lost to police brutality, institutionalized racism and hatred,” the organizers of KW Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter posted on the social media site.  “People of all races and backgrounds will come together to show our solidarity against anti-Blackness and injustice.”

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The March is expected to begin at 5 p.m. June 3 at 44 Gaukel St. near Kitchener’s Victoria Park.

Organizers have asked attendees to take COVID-19 restrictions in mind by wearing a mask, keeping to groups of five or less and maintaining a distance of two meters between groups.

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They are asking anyone who may have symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home and watch a livestream of the event instead of attending.

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Concern over large anti-racism demonstrations during pandemic

Similar events have been held around the world since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota, Minn. A video showed Floyd, a Black man, pleading for air as a police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

“We will march for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet & all those before who’s names we know and those names we do not know of.,” the organizer’s wrote on Facebook.

Two white men were arrested in May for the February shooting death of Black jogger Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in her Kentucky home in March.

Korchinski-Paquet, a Toronto Black woman, fell 24 storeys from a balcony while officers were in her home on May 27.
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Given the potential size of the crowd, it would seem nearly impossible for people to maintain proper social distancing in accordance with the province’s current ban on groups due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Regional Chair Karen Redman says police have been working with organizers to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all.

Every indication I have gotten from the chief (Bryan Larkin) and Waterloo Regional Police Service is that they will be on hand to make sure that it is a peaceful, orderly demonstration,” she said. “So they’re working with the organizers to make sure that people who want to sort of come out in solidarity, that it is a peaceful process.”

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Redman says they are not sending anyone to write tickets but officers will be on hand to make sure “there are no infiltrators or agitators.”

As for concerns about the protest sparking another wave of COVID-19 cases, Redman is hoping people will participate from home.

There is an opportunity to participate online and we would encourage people to voice their support in solidarity of these issues by joining online rather than deciding to come in person,” she said.

–With files from Global News’ Sawyer Bogdan