Saturday June 6th 2020
Following the death of George Floyd we have seen demonstrations worldwide supporting the United States in their fight against racism. Although racism is an individual problem in North America, many still believe that there is systemic oppression of other races. I was able to attend a local protest in North Bay, Ontario, Canada and got an interview with the lead organizer in order to expand on why they believe the fight against systematic racism is still necessary.
Karl Fluri interview with Kile George:
“Intro: Here at the memorial gardens football field, we’re about to be walking to city hall in protest.
Q: Okay so first I’d like to know who am I speaking with, and what is your role here?
A: Yes, I am Kile, basically one of the two co-organizers who basically put this whole thing together, me and my friend Kaden were pretty much the two who spearheaded this whole thing, and then obviously us two being two young people of colour we saw all of the protests and knew immediately that we should be able to do something like this in North Bay, and so it’s happening and that’s really exciting
Q: That is extremely exciting, because I’m all about this movement as well, so when did you start organizing the protests? and how did you go about the first steps in getting this together?
A: Actually it was like a week ago that we sort of had the idea to do this, and then we actually had originally planned it for next week but then we felt like that would be too far ahead so we pushed it to this week and the we got into contact with the city with the police department, fire department, a lot of the correct channels just to make sure that it was safe enough to do this, considering COVID-19 as well as other procautionary measures as we’re marching down the street and stuff, but yeah, it came together fairly quick
Q: And I mean, I understand that obviously this is a trying time we have George Floyds death, and you two are people of colour, as you said young people of colour, so this is affecting you personally, right? So I mean obviously thats one of the reason why you organized this protest, is there more to it? or?…
A: Uhm, yeah. It’s disheartening to see all of the different protests and police brutality that is going on in the states, and down South, and we know that we wanted to show Northern Ontario that it is still a problem that effects us and so we are able to protest peacefully, and so we’re able to get the message accross a bit more about the police brutality and then even with the protests that are going on, we also wanted to make sure we had the support for that.
Q: Yeah, it is nice to give a voice to people who are generally unheard, right? That’s what this is all about, I mean there have been demonstrations in many countries all around the world, really supporting what is going on in the states right now. So how has the community response been, in North Bay, and how do you think the leadership response has been, in large part to this event?
A: Oh, we have had the full support of city council, of the police department, we’ve had people come to us to say that they might not be able to come or that they are excited to come, they just support us 100%. There are still the few people who, of course, don’t really agree with what we’re doing or don’t understand why we’re doing this in North Bay, but of course it’s important that we do it especially in northern communities because we don’t see a lot of the police brutality, so people don’t think about it as much as people down South, but we still need to bring it to peoples attention.
Q: Yeah, I mean injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, right? So just one last question for you here. Many people have condemned some of these protests as violent acts, you know? especially in the US. I just wanted to know what you think of these forms of protest, what do you think that does to the movement, and what do you think the movement could do to reach a broader audience, or an alliance base?
A: Yeah, well of course there are the actions of the few that take more attention than the actions of the many, so the protests or the riots that get out of hand are obviously a big concern for peoples safety, and we don’t agree with that, but we also think that if that’s the only way to get justice then so be it. Of course we are not planning on having any of that happen in North Bay, here we actually put in measures to make sure that if anyone comes here with an agenda that doesn’t align with our peaceful march then we are going to ask them to put an end to it, or ask them to leave to ensure everyones safety around here.
Q: Yeah I mean it’s about safety, and it’s also about protecting the integrety of the movement right? I mean if it becomes violent, it becomes out of hand then that is just something they can use against our movement right?
Outro: Okay, so I’d just like to thank you for doing this this morning.”
Following this interview there were a few speakers including a denoucement of the violence and a statement that acts of this nature would be shut down at this protest as well as a land acknowledgement from a first nation leader in the community. Demonstrators then took to the streets, walking down Fergusson avenue toward City Hall, turning East on Worthington. The chants echoed through the streets of this small northern community, for miles around all one could hear was the cries in memory of the deceased “George Floyd!” they would shout in unison, followed by the decree of “No justice! No peace!; No racist! Police!”. The path to city hall was blocked off by police officers who had been dispatched by the city in order to aid the protests. I observed one of the co-organizers, Kaden, as he was leading the march down the street receive a fist bump from a local officer as he chanted the words that echoed through all of our heads that day “No justice! No peace!; No racist! Police!”. Later that day there was another event organized at the waterfront where they gave a stage to voices of colour in the community. Individuals spoke about how racism is still fairly common, especially in smaller communities, and how it has personally touched them, although no one spoke of racism that could be considered systemic. Racism is problematic, not only from whites but from all races, but as a society we have and continue to work hard to ensure that those few bigotted voices are not the loudest and lose any power they may have over others.
This was a fantastic example of the peaceful protests all of us would like to see. The organizers achieved this by ensuring the crowd was filled with monitors and that they worked in tandum with local law enforcement to ensure that no violence would be tolerated. For those who say that when the protests get violent it is simply the actions of the few tainting an otherwise peaceful protest, let me ask you this. Are the officers who watched Derek Chauvin take the life of George Floyd peaceful? and does this stop you from protesting all police officers? or wanting the system taken down? the obvious answer for most here is a resounding no. If you stand idly by as acts of violence are commited around you then you are in no way peaceful, and a system where the non-violent stand by those who commit violence in order to advance their agenda is not a peaceful one. The issue at the heart of these protest is one that matters, of course, but one that will ultimately be washed away if those who attempt to advance this cause do so by hurting innocent individuals, the exact behaviour they are protesting to stop. I understand that this community is hurting from the effects of a few violent and biggoted individuals, but if they truly want to succeed in understanding the problem and rooting it our of our society as much as possible they’ll need the help of everyone. By attacking the innocent, looting their stores, killing their family members, you are only otherising yourself and reinforcing the stereotypes you are fighting so despretaly to stop. Unless the protests are done peacefully, at the end of the day these communities who are already suffering will only have made more enemies.