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Demonstrators protest anti-Black racism during rallies in Toronto

George Floyd protests: Anti-racism demonstrations held throughout Toronto
WATCH: Anti-racism demonstrations held throughout Toronto

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.

Peaceful protesters gather near Ontario’s legislature
Peaceful protesters gather near Ontario’s legislature

Attendees took a knee during parts of the demonstrations, including in front of the Superior courthouse near the United States consulate on University Avenue.

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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.”

George Floyd protests: An 8-year-old’s hope for equality
George Floyd protests: An 8-year-old’s hope for equality

A separate rally was held Saturday afternoon at Trinity Bellwoods Park before demonstrators moved to Queen’s Park.

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As of early Saturday evening, the protests remained peaceful despite rumors of possible rioting earlier in the week.

George Floyd protests: Demonstrators against anti-Black racism gather in downtown Toronto
George Floyd protests: Demonstrators against anti-Black racism gather in downtown Toronto

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.

READ MORE: U.S. streets fill as anger, tributes, protests over George Floyd prevail

“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.

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READ MORE: George Floyd protests — Anti-racism demonstrations set to continue across Canada

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.

READ MORE: Man arrested after attending Toronto anti-Black racism protest in blackface: police

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

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