Cities across North America are seeing protests and demonstrations following a grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Posters reading “Black Lives Matter”, “Race is not a weapon” and “No Justice No Peace” lined Market Square, where over 100 protestors gathered on Tuesday. A peaceful rally to stop police violence against black youth and demand justice in this case was held in honour of Brown.
The freezing weather didn’t stop the protesters from their continuous chanting of “hands up, don’t shoot, black lives matter”, referencing the Brown family’s opinion that Michael posed no threat to Wilson. Passersby provided encouragement and support for the protesters, honking and cheering as they went by.
The protesters also took part in four and a half minutes of silence to pay tribute to Brown’s death and recognize the four and a half hours that his body remained in the street.
The predominantly white crowd stood in solidarity to “get people thinking about racial hatred and police brutality”, said protester Steven McLean, Nurs ’16.
Though the shooting took place in Missouri, the rally was meant to “bring more awareness to the corruption in both the States and Canada”, said Laina Van Winckle, ArtSci ’15.
The protest in the square lasted for about an hour, when the protesters decided to peacefully march up the sidewalks of Princess St. to Division St. to gain more exposure.
One of the rally’s organizers, Alex Da Costa, said the event was organized just that morning as “a lot of people were following the verdict, and wanted to demonstrate their indignation”.
“The goal is to attempt to reach out and connect with other people who are indignant about the situation and hopefully demonstrate that this is not something people in society approve of,” he said.
“A lot of communities are feeling this kind of pain and when we can reach out and demonstrate solidarity — that we’re thinking of them and that we want justice for them — then I think that we’re doing our best to support them from where we are in Kingston.”
Da Costa said Ferguson is a “microcosm” of a broader situation.
“If this demonstration can galvanize people to be aware and to move against this type of situation, we have succeeded,” he said.
He added that the rally allows people to channel their energy “in a peaceful way that is seeking some type of change” and demonstrates the mistrust and anger that Canadians have about policing in the United States.
“A lot of people were following the verdict and while a lot of people said they were not surprised by it, because they don’t really trust that the system brings justice, especially to particular communities, in North America as a whole, so the indignation that people were feeling and wanting to demonstrate that people are aware of this and are not happy,” he said.
“We feel for the family and are trying to make a statement as to that we want justice for Mike Brown, and others who are killed through police violence.”
Demonstrations across North America will shed light on the black community’s claims of harassment and violence against them by predominantly white police forces, Da Costa said. He added that the anger with the verdict and the pain that a lot of these families and communities are suffering could bring change.
“The goal is to attempt to reach out and connect with other people who are angry about the situation and hopefully demonstrate that this is not something people in Canadian society approve of,” he said.
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