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Canadian marches, vigils taking place to honour black lives lost at hands of police

Demonstrators plan to march from Parliament Hill through Ottawa streets mid-afternoon today to honour black lives lost at the hands of police.

The demonstrations follow days of protests across the U.S. after a video showed Minneapolis police killing a black man, George Floyd, unleashing a torrent of anger over persistent racism.

A police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.

Prosecutors on Wednesday expanded their case against the police who were at the scene of Floyd’s death, charging three of the officers with aiding and abetting a murder and upgrading the charges against the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck to second-degree murder.

The most serious charge was filed against Derek Chauvin, whose caught-on-video treatment of the handcuffed Floyd spurred worldwide protests.

Three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four were fired last week.

Friday’s planned actions comes after rallies of a similar theme have taken place already this week in Saskatoon, Sydney, N.S., Burlington, Ont., and Calgary, among other locations.

Read on to see what’s happening around Canada.

Ottawa

The Ottawa event is being organized by the group No Peace Until Justice.

The group says its goal is to bring together black activists and organizations and allies to stand in solidarity against police brutality and societal racism.

The event has touched off some online controversy about who is welcome to attend.

A poster stuck to a pole along Bank Street in Ottawa calls for solidarity with protesters in the United States. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

Ottawa police were not invited at the request of the No Peace Until Justice organizers.

After Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson noted his intention to be there, the group said he was invited via Twitter by unaffiliated individuals. “The No Peace Until Justice organizers did not reach out to him or his office.”

The group says it opposes all streaming and the taking of videos or photos of the demonstration to protect the identity and safety of those attending.

For their part, the Ottawa police say public safety is a shared responsibility.

“We are working with organizers and all stakeholders to enable a safe, healthy and positive event,” the police service said Thursday.

“You have a right to be heard. And we will support that right by ensuring your safety,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa on Friday he saluted those who are “standing up to speak out clearly” about systemic discrimination.

“We have thousands of people stepping forward to highlight the challenges and to show that they want to be allies,” he said.

Trudeau also said he saluted those who are “standing up to speak out clearly” about systemic discrimination.

“We have thousands of people stepping forward to highlight the challenges and to show that they want to be allies.”

Toronto

A similarly themed Toronto march is proceeding south from the Bloor-Yonge subway station on Friday, headed to city hall.

Several businesses on downtown Toronto’s Yonge Street and surrounding areas boarded up their windows in anticipation of the protest. Toronto Eaton Centre said it would be closed until Monday as a precaution.

Delsin Aventus, one of the organizers of the rally, told CBC Toronto that protesters hope to create dialogue between the community and civic leaders about issues of racism and violence.

“Today started as a march in solidarity both with lives lost both to racism and unfortunately some to police,” he said.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders met with protesters.

Saunders could be seen on one knee with protesters, though some have criticized police officers kneeling with demonstrators as ringing hollow, considering reports of police violence at protests in recent days.

Saskatchewan

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the video of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis late last month has spurred people to action and now they’re making their voices heard.

“It can’t help but move people to say, ‘That’s not acceptable,’ and that’s one act of violence. But we know the frustration that’s coming out is also because of persistent inequality and people living in two societies too often in Canada and North America,” he said Thursday.

Clark acknowledged these issues are faced by Saskatoon’s Indigenous and newcomer populations and said it’s inspiring to see so many people speak out against racism and inequality.

In Regina, demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter rally were silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds before erupting into the lyrics of Amazing Grace.

Participants met at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum before 11 a.m. CST. They planned to march to the Saskatchewan Legislature, where a similar rally was held on Tuesday.

People take a knee after a speech by Regina Police Chief Evan Bray on Friday. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

British Columbia

In B.C., an estimated 3,500 people turned out at the Vancouver Art Gallery on May 31 in an event inspired by the Floyd killing.

On Friday, a protest is being held at 4 p.m. PT at Jack Poole Plaza in downtown Vancouver, this time focusing specifically on the Canadian context.

“We need to magnify this,” said Jacob Callender-Presad, who has organized both events. “We need to talk about this because racism in Canada does exist.”

Organizers are taking COVID-19 precautions, he said.

Those measures include supplying hand sanitizer, masks and gloves at the event, Callender-Presad said, with physical distancing to be encouraged.

Events are also scheduled Friday on the legislature grounds in Edmonton and Winnipeg, at Parade Square in Halifax and in Repentigny, Que.

CBC

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