B.C. Premier John Horgan is encourage British Columbians to protest peacefully, ahead of a planned rally in Vancouver in solidarity with Americans over the death of George Floyd this Friday.
This comes as Nordstrom and other major Vancouver retailers board up storefronts over concerns of looting, after violence broke out during protests in a number of U.S. cities.
“I am absolutely hopeful any of the demonstrations that are supporting the issues of Black Lives Matter, and and other issues of racism in British Columbia and around the world, will be peaceful and focus on the issues at hand,” Horgan said.
“If there are those that try to assert themselves in what has, by and large, been peaceful protest of course that is where we need to take action. Law enforcement will be prepared to do that.”
Protests and riots have occurred in dozens of American cities following Floyd’s death. Floyd died in police custody after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck.
An autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family has since found his death was due to asphyxiation. This differs from an earlier autopsy described in the criminal complaint against the officer.
The four Minneapolis police officers involved in the arrest have been fired.
Derek Chauvin, the officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with second-degree murder and is in custody in a state prison.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said at a press conference Wednesday that arrest warrants were also issued for three other fired officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao.
They will be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Horgan says the events unfolding have created one of the “most extraordinary times in our world history” and hopes British Columbians have their voices heard in a peaceful manner.
The premier says he “can’t counsel businesses on what to do” when asked about whether boarding up businesses could potentially incite violence.
The premier added he understands the concerns people have of protests larger than 50 people potentially leading to a spread of COVID-19.
“Free association and the ability to meet in the public square is a fundamental right,” Horgan said.
“It’s a challenge, I understand how the public will go, ‘What’s the difference.’ But there is a big difference. We are telling people to have smaller events. To try and exercise responsibility and I am telling protesters to do the same thing.”
Horgan’s message differed from Health Minister Adrian Dix’s plea earlier this week for protesters to not gather in crowds bigger than 50. Dix suggesting virtual protests or multiple groups of 50 people rather than one group of 500.
“I think what we have to recognize is that we’re in an extended period where there’s going to be a prohibition on mass gatherings so we collectively have to use our imaginations and that means, on all sides, recognizing the value of other demonstrations,” Dix said on Monday.
“We’ve seen other demonstrations over the last couple of weeks and that is what happens in a democracy, but we have to use the tools at our disposal. Right now that means ensuring that we’re not putting the most vulnerable people in society at risk, that’s the reason for the public health order,” added Dix.
“Let’s use our imaginations together and recognize different forms of protest as we’re trying to seek social change.”