St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in London, Ont., is organizing a multi-faith march aimed at showing the community that all of us need to “step up” and show that “love will overwhelm hate, always.”
Friday’s march will cap off a traumatic week in the city following a vehicle attack against a Muslim family that left four dead and a nine-year-old boy injured on Sunday evening. The victims were all members of the same family and police believe they were targeted due to their faith.
The attack has been met with numerous displays of support and unity, but also renewed discussion of the ongoing and long-standing problem of racism in London and the need for concrete action to effect change.
Rev. Kevin George says the Multi-Faith March to End Hatred will start at the site of the attack on Hyde Park Road at South Carriage Road at 7 p.m. Friday and make its way down Oxford Street towards the London Muslim Mosque.
“Our hope is to gather as many people as possible in this city on Friday and bring the place to a halt with the number of people so that everyone can see in this city, in the country and in the world, that that terrible act of violence on Sunday is not going to define who we are,” he told Global News.
The city says southbound lanes of Hyde Park Road from South Carriage Road to Oxford Street West will be closed starting at 6 p.m. until roughly 10 p.m., as will eastbound lanes of Oxford Street West between Hyde Park Road and Wharncliffe Road North.
While the northbound lanes of Hyde Park Road and westbound lanes of Oxford Street will remain open, delays are anticipated, and motorists are advised to avoid the area.
Transit riders can check the LTC’s detour page to check for any impacts.
“Our priority is public safety for all taking part,” the city said in a statement on Friday.
“As COVID-19 remains an ongoing threat in our community, we are encouraging anyone who intends to participate in the march to also follow the health precautions that are in place, including physical distancing, wearing masks, frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing, and to consider staying home if they are experiencing any COVID-19 like symptoms.”
Emergency responders will be available at the march, the city adds, in case anyone needs medical assistance.
George says people are invited to join the march anywhere along the route and don’t necessarily have to walk all seven kilometres.
“Anywhere you can join us, join us. Our plan is to arrive at the mosque ahead of 8:45 p.m., which was the time of this tragedy on Sunday. No doubt there will be some words shared of condolence, of support, of love and care.”
Elected members of Parliament and faith leaders from the Anglican, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim communities will all take part, George adds.
“We’re coming together. The faith leaders will be at the front. We want to say to the London community that we believe in love and that’s where we want to be.”
Still, George acknowledges that symbolic action is not enough.
When we hear others refer to different groups with slurs or derogatory language in casual conversation, he says, taking action “means having the courage to speak up and say, ‘No, that’s not funny. It’s not appropriate. It’s not appreciated.'”
“It also means examining the ways and the fears that we have in our own hearts. We can’t help but be infused and sort of surrounded by what we’ve been raised in and we live in a colonized reality. Canada is a colonial country. And so because of that, those attitudes have affected all of us,” he said.
“And if we have that heart for care, for justice, for love, for peace, for reconciliation, then we also have to do the heavy work, the hard work, the messy work of being present and sitting in the conversation and hearing, quite frankly, difficult stories.”
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother were killed after police say a pickup truck intentionally mounted a sidewalk and struck the family. Nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal suffered serious injuries.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder and is next due in court on Thursday.