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London Ont., standing up against racism, police brutality Saturday

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One large rally, several smaller protests and a march are all set to take place Saturday in London Ont., in solidarity with Americans and Canadians protesting the death of George Floyd.

Black Lives Matter London is hosting a physical distancing rally in Victoria Park from 3 to 6 p.m. June 6.

READ MORE: Londoners rally in support of Black Lives Matter to denounce police brutality

The rally comes nearly two weeks after George Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis.

Floyd, an unarmed Black man, pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes during his arrest.

Ghiada Hamdun, one of five organizers of London’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally told Mike Stubbs on 980 CFPL’s London Live Thursday the group did not have “… high expectations for this, but it’s really overwhelming how much support [and] attention we’re receiving.”
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“We also raised a lot of money that we will be donating to Black Lives Matter charities across Canada,” Hamdun said.

George Floyd protests: Police chief Mark Saunders takes a knee during Toronto rally
George Floyd protests: Police chief Mark Saunders takes a knee during Toronto rally

As of Friday evening, more than 5,100 people on Facebook have indicated interest in attending the rally.

A portion of the money that was fundraised will go towards providing masks and hand sanitizers for those attending the rally, according to Hamdun.

READ MORE: No yelling, wear a mask: How George Floyd protests can be safe amid COVID-19

She recommends those with access to masks and hand sanitizes to bring their own to ensure supplies last.

“I just want to see everyone coming together, and making our voices heard… I hope it’s going to be peaceful, and we’re really encouraging physical distancing.”

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According to Black Lives Matter London’s Facebook page, a march is set to take place in downtown following the rally.

In other parts of London, mini city-wide BLM protests are also scheduled to take place Saturday.

Organizer Paula Velez told Jess Brady on 980 CFPL’s Afternoon Show Friday her inspiration for organizing smaller protests came from a safety point-of-view, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I personally felt hesitant to go to a crowded protest, so I thought there must be so many people in London who felt the same, but the cause is so important,” said Velez.

“This way, it gives people the option of protesting with more social distancing, and it spreads [people] throughout the city, so Londoners can protest at different times and for as long as they want.”

READ MORE: Trudeau, thousands march in Ottawa anti-racism protest

Velez explained another reason for organizing these mini protests is because “… I want people to know that racism isn’t predominately in the U.S. — it exists all over the world including right here in London, Ont.”

“It’s our responsibility to do what we can.”

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Velez says those interested in attending can comment on their Facebook events page what intersection they plan to go to, and others can join while maintaining physical distancing.

“The idea is to separate everybody six feet apart, everybody wears masks and gloves, and we could have [half of] the people on one side of the street and [the other half] on the other side.”

READ MORE: George Floyd case prompts ban on police use of chokeholds in Minneapolis

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Demonstrations have taken place in the U.S. and Canada since Floyd’s death.

In response to the demonstrations, the London Police Service (LPS) and the London Police Services Board both issued statements, saying they are supportive of the rally planned for London.

“We support the right for people to peacefully demonstrate because through demonstration can come meaningful change,” LPS’s statement read.

“We also support the right of the Black community and allies to protest and have their voices heard…  This right is a fundamental aspect of our Charter and of human rights,” added the board.

They add some board members will be participating in-person at London’s rally.

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London’s Mayor Ed Holder said in a statement that he will not be attending in-person “… based on recommendations from public health authorities.”

“I do, however, plan to watch, and listen intently, online,” the mayor wrote.

Black Lives Matter London has posted safety tips for those planning on attending the rally.

READ MORE: Massive Black Lives Matter mural painted near White House

Dr. Chris Mackie, London’s chief medical officer of health urges attendees to self-quarantine for two weeks and contact the Middlesex-London Health Unit if they start to get symptoms of COVID-19.

For those wanting to attend the events in-person on Saturday but are unable or unwell, Velez says there are plenty of other ways to support the BLM movement, including ‘chalktivism.’

“You use chalk and write things that demonstrate solidarity, raise awareness, and write down useful resources or donation websites.”

“You could also put up signs on poles near your home… or make a sign and walk around your neighbourhood,” Velez adds.

She says supporting Black-owned businesses is another way to help.

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