Hundreds of people gathered in Kingston, Ont. Tuesday afternoon for a Black Lives Matter vigil, saying racism is not just a problem in the United States.
The vigil was to acknowledge and mourn the lives lost to anti-Black racism and to demand justice.
The peaceful rally in McBurney Park was organized after a week of riots across the U.S., following the death of George Floyd.
The 46 year-old Black man was killed in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest, an incident that was caught on cellphone video.
“We need to prosecute the people who have done injustice to black people,” said Kayla Oaks, holding a sign that reads ‘Prosecute Killer Cops’, “not just in the states where it is very prevalent, but also here in Canada where it is not highly recognized as well.”
There have been many peaceful demonstrations and vigils like the one at McBurney Park across the United States and Canada.
Local organizers recited the names of Black, Indigenous people and persons of colour who have been victims of police brutality in this country, and observed a moment of silence.
“We have worked within our community for so long to buildup those partnerships and that credibility and that trust and we want to ensure that continues,” says Kingston Police chief Antje McNeely.
“These kinds of things that happen worldwide, we want to ensure that it doesn’t reflect negatively within our own community.”
Just hours before the Black Lives Matter vigil Tuesday evening, the chief along with the Kingston Police Association released a letter to the community saying, in part, “We stand united and in solidarity with our community and those experiencing racism and discrimination in all its ugly forms.”
The force says they are committed to a culture of change amid struggles over racism in North America.
“It means a lot for future generations to be able to progress forward in society and not have this block in between … division of sides,” says Oaks.
Organizers told the large crowd that the vigil was just the start, expressing hope that the solidarity shown would live on in the activism that will need to continue.