A crowd of more than a thousand people gathered in front of Saskatoon City Hall on Thursday evening to join the Justice for George Rally.
The rally was organized in light of the protests happening across the United States following the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Other countries soon joined the US in protesting, with Saskatoon being one among many other cities across Canada.
Braydon Page, the organizer of the rally, spoke in front of thousands on June 4 at the City Hall before the crowd started marching downtown.
“We are marching against racism, oppression — we’re marching against everything,” Page said. “That’s why we’re all here.”
For Sara Mulenga-Woo, a physiology and pharmacology student, attending the rally was important because people often do not acknowledge the racism in Canada.
“I’m tired and hurt seeing all the pain and suffering my people and other people of colour have faced,” Mulenga-Woo said. “It makes me angry that I constantly have to justify [why] my life is important, and I never want anyone to have to feel the kind of pain I have felt from racial injustice.”
As the demonstration went on, the crowd chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name: George Floyd.” The march began shortly after 6 p.m., with protesters holding their signs up as they walked towards the Saskatoon Police Service Headquarters.
In the past few weeks before the rally, Mulenga-Woo has felt sad and exhausted in seeing reports of police brutality on black Americans and other minorities. But during the rally, she felt empowered and inspired by the diversity of the people that came.
“It was such a positive environment and for the first time in a long time I felt like there was hope for the movement,” Mulenga-Woo said. “I hope people see the movement and integrate it into their everyday lives.”
The march briefly stopped in front of the SPS Headquarters. The massive crowd knelt on one knee with their fist in the air in silence for a couple of minutes. Soon after, Page shouted into his boom microphone “Say his name,” to which the crowd responded with Floyd’s name. The march continued afterwards.
Even though a few people left the rally during the march, the crowd was still large when they reached Kiwanis Memorial Park, just north of the Delta Bessborough Hotel. The protesters cheered and chanted, and then silence fell over everyone as they once again knelt on one knee with their fist in the air.
For almost nine minutes, the crowd was silent as a reflection of the time it took before Floyd passed away on May 25.
All the police officers at the scene of Floyd’s murder face charges now, with Chauvin’s charges having gone from third-degree murder to second-degree murder. Many protests are continuing across the US and many more are starting in different countries.
When asked about what change she wants to see in Canada, Mulenga-Woo says that she wants people to recognize their biases and racist tendencies. She wants people to “acknowledge our flawed system.”
“Our system doesn’t benefit minorities truthfully; it was made by and is enforced by mostly white people in power… I want people to learn to take this movement and integrate it into their lives. Learn about experiences, cultures and perspectives beyond your own,” Mulenga-Woo said.
“POC voices need to be heard. POC needs to be seen. POC needs to be respected.”
J.C. Balicanta Narag | Editor-in-Chief
Photo: Heywood Yu