For the second straight week, a large gathering of people in Nanaimo protested police brutality against black and indigenous people.
The police-involved shooting deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi in New Brunswick, the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, as well a confrontation between police and First Nation Chief Allan Adam in Alberta, have all made headlines and an estimated 200 people marched from Maffeo Sutton Park to Nanaimo city hall speaking out against those and other incidents.
Doug White III, B.C. First Nations Justice Council chairperson, told the crowd at city hall that there is something wrong that must be fundamentally rejected. The justice system is comprised of many elements, with policing being the most central and important, he said.
“They’ve got an incredible amount of authority and responsibility,” said White. “It’s important for us to remember and to understand where that authority comes from. It comes from us and from you. It belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to them. Every scrap of authority and discretion that they exercise belongs to you and when aspects of that public trust are abused, not held up, not cherished, in the patterns that we see of excessive force and violence against indigenous peoples, against black Canadians and other peoples of colour, then we have to stand up.”
Lexy Kriegel, an organizer, said everyone must stand together against racism. She asked people to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“Because let me tell you something, this is easy when you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals, to put up your fist for Black Lives Matter,” Kriegel said. “What are you going to do when you’re home? When you’re with your friends and your family and your close circle and somebody says something that’s racist? Will you be so quick and so vocal then to stand up and say Black Lives Matter?”
There have been calls to defund police, but according to Trevor Snell, an organizer, that isn’t the answer.
“It’s a more complicated matter than [just] taking money away,” said Snell. “There’s a bigger picture to it, so defunding is not going to make anything better. It’s going to be a continuous cycle.”
Sona Bingley, a person who spoke at the rally, said it is important not to paint all police with the same brush. She relayed a story about an interaction she had with a police officer when she was caught shoplifting at age 14.
“He put me in the back of the police car and he looked at me and said, ‘You don’t belong here. You can’t be a statistic. You look different, not because you are black. You have something in your eyes.’ That cop saved my life, so I want to tell you that not all police officers are [expletive],” said Bingley.
There are a certain amount that choose to do horrible things, just like people, she said.