By Krishna Shetye, June 8 2020 —
“No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police!” was among the chants of the thousands of passionate Calgarians who gathered on the Louise Bridge on 10th Street NW on Wednesday, June 3.
The crowds, who were protesting the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, as well as many similar police brutality incidents, were mainly composed of youth and young adults, though some families brought young children. Aside from police brutality in the United States, many activists pointed out that Canada is also complacent, citing racism in both the African-American and the Indigenous communities. One such incident closer to home is the recent death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto after a 24-story plummet during an encounter with the police.
Before marching towards the downtown core, protestors clustered at the bridge to listen to the stories of individuals who faced racism, many of whom were embraced by fellow supporters after emotionally recounting their experiences.
Supplies like masks, water, and snacks, were distributed by security volunteers in neon vests affiliated with the hosting organization, Calgary Against Police Brutality. They also provided crowd control services, assisted by members of the Bearspaw Nation, of the Nakoda people in Alberta. The Bearspaw Nation members showed their support by beating traditional drums with the crowd.
Due to the large volume of protestors, Memorial Drive was temporarily blocked off by police who directed traffic elsewhere. Many passing cars honked in support as they took the detour.
“We are here to make sure that it’s possible for people to exercise their right to peacefully protest,” said an officer who identified himself as Chris. “The [Calgary Police Department] coordinated with the [organizer’s heads] in order to maintain a safe environment for protestors.”
About an hour into the protest, the march began. Simy Apte, a downtown resident, heard chants from her apartment balcony and gazed at the massive crowd that was passing by her street.
“It was really special to be able to witness it,” said Apte. “Everyone was out on their balcony watching it for a while. We could actually hear [the protestors] start across the [Louise Bridge], and slowly make their way down 8th street. You could hear them clearly saying ‘Black lives matter,’ and ‘I can’t breathe.’ They all stopped and did a kneeling demonstration as well. It was pretty moving.”
The march ended in a large conglomeration at the Olympic Plaza, where a candlelight vigil was held for the victims of racism.
“It was an amazing chance to come together as a community and fight for such an important cause,” said Dhruvi Talwar, a University of Calgary engineering student holding a ‘South Asians 4 Black Lives’ sign.
This was the third event protesting police brutality in Calgary with more to come, including a vigil in front of City Hall this coming Saturday.