On Saturday, people in Guelph will add their voices to the protests taking place across the United States, Canada and the world.
The local peaceful protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement will include speeches, spoken word and live music, said Kayla Gerber, one of the organizers of the event. Gerber may be better known to some in Guelph as Kween.
“This is a local peaceful march. It’s about creating awareness in a safe space, not only for our community but also for our people of colour, as well as our children," said Gerber.
Hosted by Guelph Black Heritage Society, the march is planned for Saturday between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and will begin at Guelph City Hall.
Gerber said everyone is welcome to come and people can request time to speak, but that it's also important for some allies people to come and listen.
“Allies can add a lot and I think that is a huge thing in Guelph," said Gerber.
Organizers are asking supporters to take all precautions and follow guidelines for the protest in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including physical distancing of two metres between people and marching in groups of five or less.
People experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms are asked to stay home and all participants must wear a mask.
Gerber said organizers have been speaking with the city and public health to ensure it is as safe as possible to gather during the pandemic.
“I think we have put in a lot of the major measures that are needed, like contacting our bylaw officers, contacting the city and working with public health in regards to eliminating any of those thing happening," said Gerber.
Participants are asked to bring signs and other essential supplies, including hand sanitizer.
People interested in speaking at the event are asked to contact the organizers through the Facebook group.
The final route for the protest is expected to be announced on Tuesday, but Gerber said it is planned to pass by the Guelph Police Services headquarters.
Gerber said she hopes to see local police outside the station in support of the message of the march and possibly even participate, as has been seen in some U.S. cities. In some cases, police officers have actively joined in marches or taken a knee symbolically, like former NFL player and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick.
“If they want to show they can be better liaisons and serve and protect our community that would go a long way,” said Gerber. "We have to show that we are about social justice as well, in a very peaceful manner."
The protest follows a number of protests across the United States in response to the death of George Floyd, who died while being taken into custody by Minneapolis Police. On Friday, a former police officer with the department has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Recently in Toronto, Regis Korchinski-Paquet died after falling from the twenty-fourth floor balcony of an apartment building after police entered the room.
Although Toronto Police deny the charge, Korchinski-Paquet’s mother said the woman was shoved by officers. The matter is currently under investigation by the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders said he wants to see the roll out of police body cameras expedited in response to the incident.
That incident, along with the death of Floyd and countless other incidents of anti-black racism and violence led to recent protests in Toronto and other Canadian cities, like Halifax and Montreal.
On Saturday, people in Guelph will come together to protest.
“We will peacefully protest for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and all those before whose names we know and those names we do not know of,” said a post on the event’s Facebook page.