Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer
Photos: Kim Regala
While the Black Lives Matter movement continues in the United States and around the world, Vancouver citizens have also taken to the streets in the form of anti-racism protests.
Two stationary demonstrations were held last week to protest police brutality and anti-Black racism. At the rally organized by Jacob Callender-Prasad on Sunday May 31, hundreds gathered at šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
On the following Friday, approximately 5,000 to 10,000 protesters gathered at Jack Poole Plaza at a protest also organized by Jacob Callender-Prasad, amongst other individuals.
Landyn Imagawa, an International Studies student at SFU, described the protests she attended in an email with The Peak.
“I was blown away at the amount of people who showed up both times, despite the current pandemic. I was also so impressed that almost everyone I saw was wearing a mask and people were trying to keep their distance. For those who didn’t have masks, people were walking through the crowd handing some out, along with sanitizer to anyone who wanted some,” she wrote.
“I appreciated how anyone who wanted to speak was given the platform to. Many told stories about the racism and discrimination they had faced in their own lives, growing up in Canada. I think it was important to hear their experiences because so often we look at the US without admitting that the same racism occurs across our country as well.”
Beatriz Fernandes and Alex Senchyna, two SFU students who also attended the protests, spoke with The Peak in a joint interview.
They recalled BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) speakers sharing personal stories about issues that they were dealing with in Canada, spoken word poems, and songs on the stages before the crowds.
“For me, this isn’t a political issue [ . . . ] it’s a human rights issue. And I think that, the reason why collective action is so important is because it actually drives change. I think that the voices of Black folks and people who have suffered from this for decades should be heard and amplified, and we should only be there to assist and protect,” Fernandes said.
Fernandes noted that with collective action, the efforts that have been led by Black individuals for years may better get the traction they need. She added that, while those around the immunocompromised or elderly may not go out and protest, those who are comfortable to do so should.
“The most you can do is the least you should be doing,” Fernandes said.
President Andrew Petter released a statement on June 2 stating SFU’s solidarity against racism, noting that, “It’s all of our responsibility to combat racism, but none more so than those of us who have benefited from white privilege.”
Fernandes emphasized the amount of tangible change that has resulted from recent protests. For example, the case of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT murdered by police in her own home, has been reopened after two months.
The four policemen who had George Floyd in custody during his death had their charges increased or implemented following the protests. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck had his charge raised to second-degree murder and the other three officers now face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Senchyna noted that she doesn’t think the charges would have come without those taking to the streets and those speaking up about this act of brutality.
“I think it’s also important to recognize that you don’t get a cookie for showing up to a protest, and you don’t get a pat on the back for posting on Instagram. These are things that are necessary and it’s the bare minimum to do these things when you’re in a position of privilege,” Senchyna noted.
For information on how you can support the Black Lives Matter movement, whether that be by signing petitions, donating, educating others, or educating yourself, The Peak released an article detailing how you can begin to be a better ally.