Hundreds of people joined a rally in downtown Peterborough on Tuesday (June 2) for a peaceful protest calling for an end to police violence against black and indigenous people of colour.
The rally, organized by Black Lives Matter Nogojiwanong, was prompted by ongoing protests in the U.S. following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
The unarmed black man, who was accused of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, died after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt with his full weight on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, despite the handcuffed Floyd’s urgent pleas that he could not breathe. Chauvin has since been fired and charged with murder, and the three other officers who assisted Chauvin were also fired.
The Peterborough protesters gathered at Millennium Park at noon and marched north on Water Street to the Peterborough police station, then continuing to Confederation Square across from Peterborough City Hall.
Said Jiddawy, one of the organizers of the rally, issued health and safety guidelines before the event, asking people to stay home if they had any signs of illness and otherwise to wear a mask and to maintain a distance of two metres from other people. Protesters were also asked to march in groups of five people or less, ideally with people already in their social bubble, and to keep two metres away from other groups.
When organizing the event, Jiddawy consulted with Peterborough police, who said they would be at the protest only to manage vehicle traffic during the march and to protect the safety of protesters in case violence was instigated by outsiders.
Before the protest, Peterborough police issued a public statement of solidarity with the protesters which read, in part, that the “Peterborough Police Service wishes to reaffirm its commitment to bias free policing and the right for people to gather in peaceful protest”.
Peterborough police chief Scott Gilbert and some fellow officers who were at Confederation Square joined the protesters and took a knee — a symbolic gesture started by some National Football League players in 2016, who knelt on one knee during the U.S. national anthem as a protest against police brutality and racism.
For more information about Black Lives Matter Nogojiwanong, join the Facebook group.