Hundreds of local residents peacefully marched through downtown Chatham on Friday evening, June 5, 2020, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The protest began at the W.I.S.H. Centre, proceeded to the Civic Centre, before returning to the W.I.S.H Centre, where guest speakers spoke to the gathered crowd.
Social media was abuzz with videos, photos and posts in support of the rally:
Dozens of similar demonstrations have been held across the globe, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
The 46-year-old African American man died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck, who was handcuffed, on May 25.
The Chatham-Kent Police Service showed support for the demonstration on Friday evening, with multiple officers kneeling with the protesters in front of the Civic Centre.
Police officials say 300 to 400 people took part.
“At approximately 7 p.m. last night, a peaceful rally was led by multiple Chatham-Kent community members for an anti-racism march,” police officials said in a press release.
“Police blocked off intersections in the area to aide in allowing the march to continue without incident. As the march reached the Civic Centre, leaders amongst the group spoke about their goals for the march along with the events that they hope to take place in the future. The community members were joined by members of the police service who all knelt down together to demonstrate that the community of Chatham-Kent as a whole does not support racism.”
The CK Public Health Unit also supported the event on Friday, while also sharing information earlier in the week to encourage safety during the protest, which was held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CK Public Health understands the importance of standing up against racism. For the safety of yourself, your families, and our community, please respect public health measures.
— CK Public Health (@CKPublicHealth) June 4, 2020
The United Way of Chatham-Kent expressed their support of the event as well.
“Last night was another moment in which Chatham Kent came together standing up and speaking out to show local love because #blacklivesmatter,” United Way officials posted on social media.
“We see you. We stand with you. United.”
Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff was also present at the Civic Centre on Friday evening.
“It was my family’s privilege to show support for residents taking part in the Black Lives Matter march this evening,” Mayor Canniff said in a statement.
“The lowering of the municipal flag during the marchers’ pause outside the Civic Centre was meant to demonstrate our commitment to the cause of racial equality.”
Mayor Canniff added: “We stand in solidarity with the Black community. Our local history as a destination of refuge from those fleeing slavery and oppression, as important as it is, does not make Chatham-Kent immune to the racism that plagues society.”
Organizers for the march had a “simple” message prior to the event.
“We march (or drive our vehicle) against racism!!! We are CK! We have shown so much of what we are made of in 2020, let’s keep going,” organizers said on social media.
“Let’s show the world that we are all about loving each other and that we will not tolerate racism any longer! There will be no room for hate or violence of any kind in this march! Only love! Let’s rise up Chatham-Kent.”
Here are some more photos from the event taken by John F. Tomecek: