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Thousands join Vancouver Freedom March against racism

Click to play video 'Thousands gather in Vancouver for ‘Juneteenth’ march and rally' Thousands gather in Vancouver for ‘Juneteenth’ march and rally
Thousands gather in Vancouver for 'Juneteenth' march and rally – Jun 19, 2020

Thousands of anti-racism protesters marched from Vancouver’s Jack Poole Plaza to Sunset Beach for a rally marking Juneteenth on Friday.

Vancouver police have estimated the crowd at about 6,000 people.

Click to play video 'Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’' Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’
Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’ – Jun 19, 2020

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, began in 1865 in the United States to commemorate the freeing of slaves in Texas — more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

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READ MORE: Juneteenth: Anti-Black racism protests, coronavirus reshapes holiday this year

Freedom March co-organizer Nova Stevens with the Black Freedom Society told Global News that despite progress since then, racism remains a real issue in both Canada and the U.S.

“It’s 2020 and we’re still having the discussion of race. I am tired,” said Stevens.

“I am so tired of racial division, I am so tired of having to convince people of my pain, I am so tired of having to constantly fight for a basic human right, which is life. I deserve to live here just as much as you do.”

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Organizers asked anyone who attended to take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks and physical distancing.

READ MORE: Anti-racism march to be held Friday in Vancouver to mark ‘Juneteenth’

The march came two weeks after a massive, peaceful rally drew an estimated 10,000 people to Jack Poole Plaza. B.C. has not seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases since that event, reporting just seven new cases on Friday.

Similar events were scheduled across North America Friday amid a reignited civil rights movement in response to the death of George Floyd, who was Black, while being arrested by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck.

Click to play video 'Vancouver hosts huge anti-racism rally' Vancouver hosts huge anti-racism rally
Vancouver hosts huge anti-racism rally – Jun 5, 2020

The march began at the plaza around 4:30 p.m., before moving south on Thurlow Street, turning right onto Pacific Street, and ending at Sunset Beach Park.

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Black artists and speakers were scheduled to address the crowd from a stage at the final destination.Black-owned businesses will were also on site to showcase local Black culture and food.

READ MORE: Black History Month: What Juneteenth represents for Black Americans

Stevens said the march will focus on freedom and unity, but is also meant to send a message to Canadians who don’t believe racism is something people of colour endure every day.

“I want you to know you’re privileged, know that this country was built for you, but it was built against us,” she said.

“It’s OK if you don’t understand, but ask questions. We are open to giving you information as long as you’re receptive.”

-With files from Amy Judd