Calgarians with masks on packed Olympic Plaza for a Black Lives Matter vigil on Saturday, making their voices heard on abolishing racism and police brutality.
The rally was in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25.
At least 4,000 people attended Calgary’s vigil, according to police.
“Togetherness is everything,” said Philip Neilson with BLM Calgary.
“Just to have all these Caucasians, East Indians, people from different races, Spanish, come together and support Black lives is incredible. Calgary stepped up and we stepped up well.”
Organizers said the event was about humanizing those who have been brutalized, so they are not only remembered for their deaths but also their lives.
Hosts read aloud names of people who have died because of police brutality and the massive crowd repeated them back. They also spoke of what the victims accomplished in their lives.
Neilson said their names have been forgotten.
“It’s important that people know their names, know their stories and know what happened as part of the injustice. It starts from the top down. Everybody must know,” he said.
He wants people to understand that systemic racism is real.
“It’s not an American problem, it’s a worldwide issue and we need to all talk about it. Talking about it is the most important thing we can do and it must continue,” he said.
People chanted “Black lives matter” and some wore shirts that said, “Being Black is not a crime.”
Kay L with BLM Calgary said he is trying to do his part.
“All week, we have seen a buildup of frustration, a buildup of anger and outrage over the past year, over the past decades and that’s what we’re seeing now. That’s what makes these rallies different than any other protests we’ve seen ever in Calgary,” he said.
“We’re really proud of the way things turned out. We just want to keep the momentum going.”
The high turnout at Calgary protests throughout the week has been overwhelming, L said.
“It’s just crazy to see the support that we’re getting. It means that people are starting to sympathize with our views and we’re excited about that,” he said.
L said he doesn’t want there to have to be an instance of police brutality “for us to wake up again.”
“I want all of us to stay awake at this point because now we can see that people are starting to open their eyes,” he said, adding that the energy and momentum are high.
“It’s going to be real difficult to go back to sleep on this.”
L said all Black people want is freedom, justice and equality — “that’s all we ever wanted; it’s nothing more than that.”
He hopes people stay involved and take away a positive message.
“I hope that they leave here feeling a sense of wanting to help, feeling the sense of wanting to stand next to us in this march and this cry for freedom,” he said.
Sonia Ebanda said she was proud of the protest’s turnout, citing how crucial it is to acknowledge the reality of discrimination.
“As a Black woman, a Black mother of two boys and a citizen of Canada, I think it’s important to recognize that there is systematic racism here and to fight it,” she said.
“I think it’s important for all of us to know that there is discrimination against people of colour, of Indigenous people. It’s important to recognize it and important to fight it.”
We are stronger together, Ebanda said.
Ebanda wants her boys, who are four years old and nine months old, to remember that the colour of their skin does not matter.
“We should not be colour blind. It’s OK to be different. Our differences must be recognized and celebrated,” she said.
Botchman Jomo said he attended the protest because he wanted to show solidarity for Black and mixed-race people.