Anti-racism organizers in Abbotsford undeterred by poster and memorial vandalism
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- The group behind Black Lives Matter solidarity protests in Abbotsford say they will not be silenced by people vandalizing posters and a small makeshift memorial to victims of police violence.
An estimated three to four hundred people attended a rally in the Fraser Valley city last Friday night.
"It was way more than we expected. And it was beautiful. I was so happy to see the community come together like that," said Willow Dennison-Hardy, one of the organizers.
Marc Forcier, a Black man who says he experienced racism growing up in Abbotsford, was initially reluctant to attend the rally because he didn’t expect a large turnout, but in the end he decided to go, and found the community response to the call for action uplifting.
"That gives me confidence that we are heading in the right direction here. Now again, this is going to be a long, long process," Forcier said.
As people left the protest, Dennison-Hardy encouraged them to leave candles, flowers and signs as part of a makeshift memorial to victims of police violence.
"We set it up because we wanted to allow people a kind of way to express the grief they feel over all of the horrible deaths by police brutality that have happened here and in the United States," she said.
The memorial did not even last one day before someone destroyed it by stomping on the flower bouquets and setting fire to the signs and artwork.
"Did I expect it to happen? Yeah, actually, I did. Why? Because it always happens," said Forcier.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said he supports young people in Abbotsford who are exercising their right to organize and protest and he’s disheartened that some in the community would attempt to interfere with that.
"Why do people do this? I don’t know. There’s something wrong with their heart, their soul," the mayor said. "I would love to talk to people and say, why would you do that?"
The anti-racism activists behind the protests say the efforts of those who oppose their message will only encourage them to shout it louder and more clearly than ever — and they’re calling on other residents who support diversity and acceptance to join them for a Saturday evening march and rally, and to keep the momentum going long after that.
"If you just stop next week, you didn’t help," said Forcier. "You keep going the week after, the weekend after, the year after. You keep going all the way until the end of your days."
Saturday’s march will end at city hall where organizers plan to start a new, more permanent memorial to victims of police violence.