The City of Guelph says it is preparing for a peaceful protest in support of Black Lives Matter on Saturday afternoon.
More than 1,000 people are expected to attend a rally outside city hall beginning at 2 p.m. and then march to and from the University of Guelph.
It’s just one of many rallies happening around the world in response to racial injustice, police brutality and the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old Black man died on May 25 after video showed a white officer using a knee to pin Floyd to the ground by the neck for nearly nine minutes.
The city says it will be closing public washrooms in the area to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Parking will not be allowed on Carden Street, which is likely to be closed given the expected size of the rally.
As of Friday morning, 1,500 have said they are attending on the protest’s Facebook event.
“Listen and understand,” organizer Kayla Gerber said in an interview on Wednesday. “A lot of us have experience watching our parents and families go through this, our brothers and sisters constantly, and ourselves.”
The exact route of the march has not been revealed, but organizers expect the police will have to put up barricades given its size.
Guelph police say there may be traffic delays in and out of the downtown core from about 1 p.m. until late afternoon.
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The organizers of the event say masks are mandatory due to the pandemic. Participants are encouraged to use hand sanitizer and are reminded that people who don’t live together should stay at least two metres apart.
Extra masks and sanitizer will be made available at the protest.
In a statement, Guelph’s medical officer of health said the health authority supports the right of people to gather in protest despite questions of why people are being allowed to gather when provincial emergency orders ban groups of five or more.
“Balancing protest and public health in this unprecedented time is not easy,” Dr. Nicola Mercer said while noting the health authority stands against ant-Black racism, systemic discrimination and disenfranchisement.
“The provincial state of emergency is an important tool in protecting all of us from the spread of COVID-19. The right of people to peaceably assemble is a fundamental part of a free and fair society.”
Mercer added that the organization and the City of Guelph have strongly encouraged people to participate virtually, but anyone who does attend a protest to do so safely.