Protesters demand end to racism

Thousands chant "Black Lives Matter"
Photo: Kristy Jones
A huge crowd gathers in front of Parliament Hill to march through downtown Ottawa in support of Black Lives Matter.

Thousands of people gathered in downtown Ottawa Friday to support the growing movement against police brutality, shouting their demands to end racism in Canada.

Protesters held up signs declaring “Black Lives Matter” and also called for a decrease in funding for police in Canada.

No Peace Until Justice organized Ottawa’s protest, which started at Parliament Hill and marched down to the human rights monument on Elgin Street.

A sign calls the defunding of police
A sign calls the defunding of police Photo credit: Kristy Jones

“There have been recent announcements from our government officials discussing the defunding of the Ottawa Police Services. Although this is encouraging to hear, we continue to make the voices of the black people amplified. This shows change is coming. This is encouraging to hear but it does not end here. The voices of the black community need to be heard,” said Sameha Ahmed, the founder of No Peace Until Justice, when she spoke at the protest.

Sameha Ahmed speaks to the crowd on Parliament Hill on June 5
Sameha Ahmed speaks to the crowd on Parliament Hill on June 5 Photo credit: Kristy Jones

Tributes were made at the protest for George Floyd who died on May 25, after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s death was a significant trigger for people of colour and allies, who said enough is enough.

“I can’t breathe. You’re gonna kill me. How many of these words are we going to hear? How many black lives?” Yvette Ashiri, a member of the African Canadian Association, told the crowd.

Members of No Peace Until Justice and protesters urge Canadians to wake up and see the problems in their own backyard. This is not just America’s issue, it exists in Canada too, they said.

Demonstrator walks through crowd with a sign reading "It happens here too".
Demonstrator walks through crowd with a sign reading "It happens here too". Photo credit: Kristy Jones

“Millions across the globe are embarking on a conscious journey, a realization, that anti-black racism is real. That police brutality is real. That systemic racism is real, and it is real in Canada. Canada wake up,” said Farhia Ahmed, chairperson of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition.

Abdirahaman Abdi, 37, a Somali Canadian, was killed during an altercation with Ottawa police in 2016.

Many protesters Friday said they are fighting for accountability for not only the murder of Floyd, but all the black lives taken by police officers.

Many protesters held up signs that voiced their fear for the children, such as “Our kids are NOT a target,” and “It saddens me that I will need to teach my kids to brave through discrimination.”

“We’re gonna have to raise children that they’re going to have to coexist with people that treat them differently because they are different. It’s really the time for action for the future. I know I’ll have to educate my children on discrimination, but why do I have to?” said a protester who chose to not share their name for safety reasons.

Those who attended the protest all had the same goal, to achieve equality. They demanded change from the government and the Ottawa police.

“Change has to come, these changes require concrete actions from our government and changes to be made to end anti-black racism. These emotions of despair do not have to be experienced again, let us use today to make a crucial call to action,” Sameha Ahmed said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also briefly attended the event. Trudeau was accompanied by Ahmed Hussen, minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

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