Thousands come together in solidarity with Black Lives Matter march on Wednesday
On June 3, an estimated 20 000 people attended the KW Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter to protest and raise awareness for the many lives lost to police brutality.
The march, which began at 44 Gaukel Street in downtown Kitchener, happened in response to racial injustice against Black and racialized folks.
Attendees of all ages were there to stand in solidarity for families and communities impacted by anti-Black racism.
“[It’s] a movement in which we are coming together as a community to state that we are not just ‘not racist’ as a community, but we are anti-racist,” said Selam Debs, community leader and one of the organizers of the march.
“It’s a way to bring respect and irreverence to the lives that are lost, like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Regis [Korchinski-Paquet], as well as the many names that we know of and those that we don’t know of and it’s a way for us as a community just to come together to stand against anti-Blackness.”
Many protestors showed up prior to the designated time, so that the Black and Indigenous community leaders who were set to take the stage at 5:00 p.m. were addressing a full crowd.
Those who spoke included community leaders from the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region, Black Lives Matter Waterloo Region, Aids Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener & Waterloo Area, MPP Laura Mae Lindo and more.
In her addressal to the crowd, Lindo acknowledged the current health pandemic, but stated that anti-Black racism is a crisis itself.
Everyone who marched was expected to wear a face mask and socially distance from other protestors, in adherence with COVID-19 protocol. Those who could not attend were able to watch a live-stream of the event on FaceBook.
Shortly after 6 pm, the march was underway. Protestors followed a route which travelled down Charles Street, Francis Street, King Street, then looped back around to end where it began.
The crowd dispersed around Victoria Park and Charles Street terminal after the march concluded.
Many attendees brought signs in solidarity with the movement that they carried throughout the march and chants were led by protestors and volunteers.
Despite the many high-profile deaths and protests taking place across the border in America, Debs emphasized that this isn’t just an American problem and that the march will begin to change these narratives.
“We have to recognize that racism and anti-Black racism is not just happening in America, it is happening right here in our community, in Canada and in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.”
“Silence equals violence and if we are not speaking up and sharing that we are against anti-Black racism, that in a way we are showing support for the oppressors, and those who provoke institutional racism.”
Police were also on hand at the event to help with the directing of traffic and to keep people safe, but organizers explicitly asked police not to march in order to prevent any potential endangerment.
Protestors are also being encouraged to stand up to anti-Black racism, and to keep supporting Black leaders, initiatives, community members, as well as Black-owned businesses in the region, which are listed on the FaceBook event page.
“(Supporters) can speak up and contact city officials and start to demand and request change and conversations around anti-blackness … as well as contributing to initiatives like ACCKWA, Black Lives Matter Waterloo Region, ACB Network Waterloo Region, and the different grassroots organizations that have been working tirelessly for generations to bring systemic change,” Debs said.
This march took place only a few days after the event page was created on Facebook, on May 31, and garnered support from over 13 200 people online.
“What I hope people will take away from this march is a sense that we all can do something. That we all must actually speak up to anti-Black racism and to injustice, and that it is in our collective voice that we can truly start to shift the narrative and consciousness of our communities,” Debs said.
“We must speak up to power, we must speak truth to power, and the young people of our community have the ability — and actually historically — young people have been the ones that have created revolutions in our community, and so I think they have an incredible opportunity to take this pain and this anger and this hurt and grief and turn it into a powerful movement of change.”
Following this march, a youth-led protest will take place on June 5. The organizers of KW Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter encouraged protestors to attend this march as well.
“We’re really grateful, we want to thank the community for coming together and for the outpouring of support, it’s been an overwhelming amount of support we’ve been receiving in terms of offering supplies, volunteering, first aid, and just the general desire for the community to come together as a whole,” Debs said.
Those who are interested in supporting Black Lives Matter Waterloo Region can donate to their fundraiser here.