One week after a massive anti-racism demonstration was held at the Alberta legislature grounds, a march got underway in Edmonton for people to speak out against police violence and to demand racial equality.
“We definitely want people to know that the revolution has arrived,” said Betenas (Betty) Abebayehu, a co-organizer of the demonstration.
“In the wake of the George Floyd death, as well as the uproar and the cry for justice to prevail against police brutality, we felt very compelled to join the movement and to stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters, as well as the Indigenous lives that were lost to police injustices.”
The Black Lives Matter movement and discussions about racism have dominated public discourse since late last month when Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck. His death, along with other recent violent deaths of Black Americans, has prompted discussions about racism, systemic racism and police brutality in both the U.S. and Canada and elsewhere in the world.
“As a Black woman, I’m very infuriated because this is not something that just happened within the last 50 to 100 years,” Abebayehu said. “There’s been centuries upon centuries of systems being in place to ensure that minorities are kept out of a certain level in the social hierarchy.
“We’re not asking anymore. We are the change and it’s right outside your doorstep so you’re witnessing it. So it’s either you join us or you’re part of the problem that needs to be eradicated.”
Sarah Ross, another co-organizer of the march, said she appreciates that people who are not visual minorities have also shown support for their event.
“We need to unite people because it’s not just us,” she said. “As you can see, there’s tons of allies around who also realize what’s going on and are in full support of us.”
Abebayehu said she wanted those joining the march to know “your work does not end with just arriving.”
“You need to do your own part to be talking to politicians, speak to your family members who are a part of the problem, because if you do not, you are a part of the corrupt system.”
The march started north of the North Saskatchewan River and saw protesters walk across the High Level Bridge before looping back across the river and into downtown. The march ended at Sir Winston Churchill Square where a gathering took place and speeches were delivered.
Ross said the route for the march was long so that people “don’t forget it.”
As of 6:45 p.m., hundreds of people could be seen marching together.
Abebayehu said she felt compelled to help organize the event because “if you continuously wait for somebody else to start the spark, then we’ll be forever waiting.”
She said ahead of the march she spoke to the Edmonton Police Service and said she did not want them to interfere with her event.
“We are community leaders and as community leaders, the people have enough respect for us that if we do intervene, that they would listen to us first,” she said. “It’s inappropriate to intervene considering this is a police brutality protest.”
Abebayehu added that she believes police need to “earn the right to be a part of our community again.”
Earlier this week, Edmonton police chief Dale McFee called Floyd’s death wrong and said police need to be held accountable.
“That, by any stretch of the imagination, can’t be defended, can’t be justified,” he said.
He added that although he believes policing in Canada is ahead of the United States, it is not perfect.
“Systemic racism exists… in every community,” McFee said. “I think we need to be open and honest about that.
“It’s in health outcomes. It’s in child apprehension outcomes… but it doesn’t mean it’s rampant.”
McFee acknowledged that many people are frustrated.
“As a police chief, I am fully committed to change,” he said, adding that the Edmonton Police Service has “hired diversity in an extremely aggressive manner.”
–With files from Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
Watch below: Some Global News videos about anti-racism rallies in Edmonton.