This story will be updated as the rally continues.
Thousands of people gathered Friday at the Manitoba Legislature for the #Justice4BlackLives rally.
Numerous people spoke at the rally, including MLA Uzoma Asagwara, Nadine Sookermany, Adeline Bird, Natalie Bell, Sandy Deng, Mandela Kuet, Michelle Edwards and Kayla Fernandes.
Community organizer Mandela Kuet, who works with newcomers to Manitoba, told the crowd it’s important to continue the fight for justice outside of this moment.
“Today we are here to lend our voices… our voice will be loud and clear, with no restraint, against the racial injustice Black people experience all around this globe,” said Kuet.
“What will you do tomorrow? What will you do next year? And what will you do in the next decade to ensure justice takes its course?”
Organizers paid tribute to Machuar Madut, a man from Winnipeg’s South Sudanese community who was killed in February 2019 after police were called to his downtown apartment.
“When you call the police, the police are supposed to come and help you, but when you’re a Black man, a big Black man, you don’t have that chance,” said Sandy Deng, a community organizer for the Sudanese community in Winnipeg.
Deng quoted South African bishop Desmond Tutu, saying people who have chosen to be neutral on the topic of racism have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Bell, a popular Winnipeg blogger, told the crowd a story about a traumatic racist experience she faced as a young girl, and about how she felt underrepresented in her schooling due to never having a black teacher at any level.
Bell said she’s hopeful about the future, thanks in part to the efforts of the young people who put together the event.
“They’re going to take us into an anti-racist future. The work that it takes to do this — to execute this in a safe, informative way… thank them.”
“There is a culture of racism that is woven into the fabric of this country,” said Asagwara.
“Racism does not rest. That’s the lived reality for so many Black people.
“It’s also not lost on me that this evening, this rally, this gathering, is taking place in the constituency of Union Station, the constituency that as an elected representative I happen to represent.”
Asagwara said it’s notable that for the first time, that seat is being held by a Black, queer, gender non-conforming activist, and that it took more than 120 years for Black people to hold seats in the legislature.
After the rally, thousands of people moved through the downtown area, filling Broadway’s sidewalks as they walked to the CMHR to gather on the steps.
By 8:45 p.m., people were rallying as chants of “No justice? No peace!” rang out.
Winnipeg police did not attend the rally but said they would be on the outskirts.
People started dispersing peacefully at sunset around 9:30 p.m.
Update, 2:35 p.m.:
Organizers of #Justice4BlackLives posted this on their social media accounts:
Butler told CJOB Friday afternoon that “some differences of opinions” meant he would no longer speak, adding he respected the group’s efforts of putting the rally on.
“I don’t want to take away from it … me having a difference of opinion, we should not be focused on,” he said.
“I don’t want to lose focus on a man dying.”
Listen to the whole interview with Butler and radio host Hal Anderson here:
Winnipeg police also sent out this message just after 2:30 p.m.:
A peaceful rally to bring attention to police brutality, racism and injustice suffered by Black people will begin at 6 p.m. Friday in front of the Manitoba legislative building.
Called the #Justice4BlackLives rally, the event is happening among rallies and protests around the world, sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
Four officers have been charged in his killing.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin faces second-degree murder charges and three other fired officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Global News will be at the event and will livestream the rally here.
“Over the past couple of days, we have seen many Black lives cut short over police brutality,” #Justice4BlackLives organizers said on their Facebook page.
“In these tough times we want to make sure that it is known that these losses affect us as well.
“The evening will have speakers from the Black community here in Winnipeg as well as Indigenous kin to show solidarity.”
One of those speakers is former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Kelly Butler, who told 680 CJOB that he hopes the rally is the start of positive change.
“There’s an uncomfortableness right now,” said Butler.
“What we saw is something that I had to survive through in the States, and coming up to Canada, I got to live.
“And there can be improvement. I think tonight, the moment is the beginning of something. It’s a new era. It’s a new way.”
Butler, who originally hails from Grand Rapids, Mich., but now calls Winnipeg home, said Canada has racial discrimination against Black people, but it’s worse in the U.S.
“I‘ve been here for 10 years. You know, I played in the States, did things, and I don’t want to go back. It’s not because the weather is so good. It’s, it’s that bad down there.
“And when we tell you it’s that bad and you don’t believe us, I stop talking about it,” he added, likening the Black Lives Matter movement to the #MeToo movement.
Everyone is welcome to come, listen and support the rally, said Butler.
“We need your help as a community,” he said.
“If our lives matter, then come to this rally, listen to what we have to say and help us move forward because it’s better for the community.”
Mayor Brian Bowman said Friday morning that he plans to attend the rally.
“I think it’s incredibly important for elected officials to be there to listen and hear what is being communicated.”
He said that he will be there to listen and will not do interviews.
The organizers have a petition asking people to sign, with a list of demands. Some of the demands include defunding the Winnipeg Police Service, an abolition of knee-holds, and statements condemning the deaths of people of colour in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada.