Hundreds in Vancouver join global Black Lives Matter protests
More than 500 people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery Sunday afternoon to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests happening around the world.
The gathering was intended as a vigil to honour the memories of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men killed by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively, last week.
It also included memorials for the police officers killed in Dallas Thursday night, and for other black victims of police violence that haven’t yet been memorialized in Vancouver.
“We haven’t been able to organize a vigil for everyone, and that’s a sad situation,” said Cicely-Belle Blain, a member of Black Lives Matter Vancouver, who helped organize the event.
The rally was peaceful - a stark contrast to the clashes between police and protesters seen in Baton Rouge Saturday night, where officers in riot gear arrested roughly 100 people.
In Vancouver, the situation is much less tense. The Vancouver Police Department said there were no incidents as protesters spoke, sang, read poetry, and eventually marched around the block surrounding the art gallery.
“We’ve had a pretty good relationship with the VPD,” Blain said. “They have acknowledged that there is an understandable amount of fear of police among the black community, so they’ve made sure that they will be discreet and just be here for our safety.”
For Blain, the role of Black Lives Matter in Vancouver - aside from showing solidarity with black communities in the United States and elsewhere - is less about countering police brutality, and more about reminding Canadians of the historical erasure of black communities in Canada.
“I think the Vancouver community doesn’t really understand why it’s important to say that black lives matter and why it’s important for a Black Lives Matter chapter to exist in Vancouver, so this is just a reminder of that,” she said.
Many of the volunteers who helped out with Sunday’s event are not black, Blain said.
Likewise, there were numerous non-black faces in the crowd. One woman named Christy - who declined to share her last name - told CTV News she wanted to show that people of Chinese descent, like her, support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It is so important to show that it's not just black people that are invested in this, but other minorities to stand in support of what's happening in the United States,” she said.
Blain hopes that support will continue well after crowds like Sunday’s disappear.
“That’s really incredible, to see those (non-black) people supporting us,” she said. “I would love them to continue and I’d love for non-black people to be here for us when we’re not organizing about a death.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Nafeesa Karim