Organizers of the impromptu Black Lives Matter rally and vigil held in Victoria on Monday are planning a second demonstration in an effort to amplify Black voices in the city and mark their solidarity with the protests in the United States.
Entitled ‘Peace Rally for Black Lives’, this second demonstration will take place in downtown Victoria at Centennial Square from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 7.
It will be led by the same youth organizers who spearheaded the original rally in the provincial capital on Monday.
“It exceeded my expectations,” said Vanessa Simon in a phone interview with Victoria Buzz.
After watching footage of widespread protests against police brutality towards Black people in the United States, 25-year-old Simon created the social media event page for a solidarity rally and candlelight vigil in Victoria.
Soon after she was contacted by 23-year-old Pamphinette Buisa, and together they created a movement that attracted over 700 people to the streets of downtown Victoria on Monday.
Over the past week, cities across the U.S. and several other countries have seen widespread protests against police brutality that caused the deaths of dozens of innocent Black people in recent years.
These protests were sparked after former Minneapolis PD officer Derek Chauvin killed an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes.
The movement snowballed over several days after local, state, and federal officers conducted arrests and deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, and mace on peaceful protesters as well as identifiable members of the media.
In Victoria, the protesters say they have a much different relationship with law enforcement.
“I hate to say this but I think Canadians do things a little differently than Americans do,” says Simon, citing the protest in Vancouver where 5,000 people attended with no signs of altercation with police.
“I have more faith in people in Victoria and how it turned out Monday was [we saw a lot of] police cooperation. They were there, they knew that it was happening, it was peaceful, and police knew that they didn’t have to [come] out guns blazing.”
On Wednesday, police detachments across B.C. shared a video in which police chiefs took a pledge to “uphold and promote diversity and to oppose racism and hate”.
Rally on Sunday
The second rally taking place on Sunday will look different than the first. Instead of marching to the Legislature, demonstrators will gather at Centennial Square for the entirety of the event.
According to co-organizer Pamphinette Buisa, this rally was purposely planned to take place on a Sunday so as to welcome everyone who wishes to attend, as weekday demonstrations may conflict with people’s work schedules.
This time, planners are working to contact as many Black artists, speakers, and individuals as possible, allowing enough time for people to prepare speeches or performances at the event.
“We’ve contacted some artists, poets, rappers, and other Black people in the community. We want to make this event about Black lives,” adds Simon.
“We’re not here to cause a ruckus or be angry. We wanted to make a statement, and show a presence that this is Black people in Victoria. We are here, we are woke, we have voices, and we matter.”
One of the people who helped the youth organizers set up their event on Monday was none other than Victoria councillor Sharmarke Dubow.
“I look up to people like Sharmarke that pave the way for Black people in the community. He’s a complete personal inspiration,” said Buisa.
For his part, Dubow says he’s happy to aid and support the movement from the sidelines and let the youth leaders take the stage.
How to support the Black community in Victoria
In the days leading up to the city’s second rally, organizers are working to prepare a comprehensive call to action for Victoria residents.
One of the best ways to support the Black community, as echoed by both Buisa and councillor Dubow, is to invest in Black businesses and entrepreneurs.
According to Buisa, this website is a great place to start, as it lists several Black-owned businesses and organizations in the city.
Councillor Dubow also advises business owners and managers to question their own hiring practices and address barriers to diversity in employment.
He also suggests individuals read more books from Black authors to expand their knowledge on the subject of racism as well as celebrate Black excellence in general.
On Tuesday, in response to escalating police violence in the United States and the growing Black Lives Matter movement across the world, Dubow shared his thoughts and advice on Twitter.
Through the following thread, he explains why saying “all lives matter” detracts from the importance of a movement that focuses on Black lives as the overrepresented target of police brutality.
I often hear all lives matter or I don’t see color. I want to emphasize that black lives matter is not a term of confrontation but rather an opportunity to reflect on the historical and contemporary realities of black people in this country. 1/ https://t.co/5jUdETOmqb
— Sharmarke Dubow (@deardubow) June 2, 2020
While these protests represent a worthy cause, it is also important to remember that the world is still in the middle of a pandemic—a point made by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday.
“Peaceful demonstration is our right… but we cannot forget that we are still in the middle of a pandemic that is affecting our communities and our loved ones,” she said in response to the widely attended demonstrations in Vancouver on Sunday.
She cautioned the 5,000+ BLM protesters who gathered there about their risks of contracting COVID-19 after being part of such a large gathering, and advised them to monitor their symptoms over the next two weeks.
Fear of the spread of virus transmission is not alien to the organizers of the Victoria demonstrations.
“We had volunteers give out gloves, and I personally bought a bunch of water bottles for people on Monday,” said Buisa.
“We also had lots of people giving out masks and many have offered to donate more masks as well. We’re 100 per cent looking to ensure health and safety and peace on Sunday.”
As of the time of publication, over 2,000 people have expressed interest in attending the rally on June 7—however, this number is growing by the minute.
“We are all about the peace and want to connect and make Victoria better,” adds Buisa.
“We look forward to doing that again on Sunday.”
- When: Sunday, June 7, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- Where: Centennial Square