“Today it shows strength, solidarity, that even in a small community there are allies that are willing to come out and call out the biggest pandemic of our time, which is racism.”
Saik’uz First Nation councillor Jasmine Thomas said those words on Saturday (June 6), while standing in the parking lot close to Nechako Outdoors in Vanderhoof, where close to thirty residents were protesting against racism.
Anti-racism protests have broken out across several communities in British Columbia.
Protests and marches have taken place across the U.S. and Canada all week, demanding justice for George Floyd, who died while being restrained by Minneapolis police, as well as police brutality and anti-black racism in general.
In Vanderhoof, protesters gathered at Ferland Park and chanted “No justice, no peace” while walking towards Highway 16 via Church Avenue, Stewart Street, and Burrard Avenue.
Councillor Jasmine Thomas, who was the only political leader present at the protest, called it ‘moving’ and said the day made her emotional, especially as a pregnant woman.
“I hope they are safe (when born) and don’t have to experience the impacts of such hate and racism within this country.”
For people looking to be allies in this fight against racism, Thomas said coming together to protest is one of the first steps. Helping uplift voices of the marginalized is another step, she said.
Thomas, who also did work on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) national inquiry said another way to be an ally, is by helping uplift the recommendations that have come out of the national inquiry into MMIW and the Truth and Reconciliation commission.
“I got to hear from so many brave women, across the country and what they experience and the recommendations they came forward with. So witnessing that in action, and then not seeing action one year after the release of the final report, does disappoint me in so many ways, just like the Truth and Reconciliation commission,” Thomas said.
“As allies, as people supporting our communities of colour, they could help see some of these recommendations come through.”
The protest was organized by Sasha Striegler Iannone.
“I’m so very grateful for all those who came to participate and those who showed their solidarity by honking or positive gestures. I didn’t expect there to be so many and it was a heartening experience to be among them. That being said, I strongly encourage my white peers to not pat themselves on the back for coming out to the protest. In my opinion, showing support for a protest initiated by BIPOC is the bare minimum. We need to continue to reflect on and deconstruct the racism and privilege we carry. Amplify Black voices. Listen to the Indigenous people around you. Educate yourself on POC issues,” Iannone said.
With files from Ashley Wadhwani, Black Press Media.