Rallies were held in downtown Toronto on Saturday with demonstrators marching through the streets demanding an end to anti-Black racism.
Crowds first gathered at Nathan Phillips Square around 1 p.m., before walking through parts of the downtown core and chanting “Black lives matter.”
“We want things to change in this country, we want things to change around the world,” one of the protesters told Global News.
Attendees took a knee during parts of the demonstrations, including in front of the Superior courthouse near the United States consulate on University Avenue.
There, Toronto police officers knelt in solidarity.
“I cannot believe that this many people showed up, but that shows the power of the future, the power of the movement,” Shara, one of the demonstrators, said.
“We’re hoping that this is going to last for a long time … There’s a lot of hope in my heart and I’m hoping that this becomes something long-term.”
A separate rally was held Saturday afternoon at Trinity Bellwoods Park before demonstrators moved to Queen’s Park.
As of early Saturday evening, the protests remained peaceful despite rumors of possible rioting earlier in the week.
Some businesses in the city boarded up windows and doors in case of violence.
Police Chief Mark Saunders said he hopes the peaceful rallies do result in change.
“We can’t let go of this energy,” he said.
“They are our future. They’ve been watching us. They’ve seen things that they haven’t liked. All of this incremental change, there has to be big change … We’ve got to get it right.”
The protest at Nathan Phillips Square was briefly interrupted after a man showed up in blackface.
He was escorted away by police and arrested.
Other events were held in London, Guelph and Vaughan on Saturday as protests against anti-Black racism continue to spread throughout Canada and the world.
The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
In Toronto, the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet has also led to calls for change. The 29-year-old Black woman died after falling from her balcony during an interaction with police after a call for mental health assistance.
Saturday’s marches in Toronto came one day after thousands of anti-racism protesters marched in the streets in honour of Black individuals who lost their lives at the hands of police officers.
— With files from The Canadian Press