Over the last 2 weeks, nights have been spent watching the news channels keeping up to date with what has been happening, since the night George Floyd was killed by 4 officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Trying to grapple with the feelings of having watched videos of the officers kneeling across the back of his neck for 8 minutes and 40 plus seconds until he was no longer breathing, even though he was asking them to stop, they refused, even when EMS showed up they did nothing to assist George.
Watching the actions of police in various jurisdictions hammered home to the audience that the Floyd incident was not alone. I have not experienced, directly, the bias of society on someone because of the colour of their skin. I can not understand, how it is to be called on by police because of the colour of my skin, to most I am white. But I have seen stories, whether while living in Edmonton, Alberta or Toronto and Aurora, Ontario. I have been disgusted at the stories, but for some reason, I can’t explain it, this is now, in this time, in this place, the time to speak up and be heard. I also, now, have the means to further the cause, through photography and video.
The quote in the title of the article is from George Floyd’s daughter, while she attended a protest with Stephen Jackson and sat on his shoulders. She is 6 years old and looking out over the crowds of peaceful protesters, she spread her arms and pointed and said “my Daddy did that”, she said “Daddy Changed the World”
It is true, like those before him, George has caused a world wide phenomenon, and Edmonton was host to one on Saturday night. I was there, as the Manager of Photography, for the Edmonton Muse Magazine. When I have that hat on, it forces me to see things with a different set of eyes. It allows me to tell a story. I want to ensure that when I am done, I have told the whole story. I don’t believe I can tell the whole story because it is not over, it is going to take time.
When I arrived at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Alberta, I was one of a few journalists on site. Black Lives Matters -YEG had organized a peaceful rally at the front of the legislature with about 1500 people in attendance. The participants were peaceful, and were speaking out against racism in Edmonton and Canada and how Black people are treated differently even in Canada. Canada had become the home to many Black slaves through the underground railroad from the United States in the 1800’s, travelling hundreds of miles over 6-8 weeks to escape slavery. They were provided with land to tend. grow crops and farm. They built there lives as did many who arrived here from other countries.
The Black Lives Matter rally then moved to the back of the Legislature, where the Rally for Equity was being held, they joined about 1000 people at around 5:45 after marching around the legislature, chanting various slogans of the Black Lives Matters and other protest rallies around the US and Canada. By the 6:30 rally start time the crowd had grown to 5-7000. For the most part people were following the rules set out for COVID 19 by wearing masks and those that did not have them were provided them by organizers. There was so much going on, and it all was directed positively, the organizers recognized the indigenous treaty 6 Nations of the Plains, Wood Cree, Nakota, Saulteaux and Dene people, on the land where the rally was being held, but it also recognized the various religions from indigenous to various faith groups in prayer to open the rally, a tradition that is respectful and traces it’s roots to that of the indigenous people of Treaty 6 nations.
It was not missed on the organizers that Black People were not the only persons being segregated in 2020, they recognized the loss of Chantel Moore of the Tlaoquiaht First Nation near Tofino, B.C, was shot and killed by police while doing a welfare check. The participants heard personal stories of pain and suffering because of being a Person of Colour, or a member of LGBTQ2SIA+ which has been on the front page of many newspapers in Canada in recent years. By 7:30, the crowd had expanded and covered the back lawn behind the leg, all the way up the hills to the legislature and spilled out to the side roads. Although some have estimated 15000, from my point of view, that number was somewhere in the 25000-participant range, and there were still more coming in to the grounds.
The crowd cheered and chanted and for 8 minutes and 46 seconds took a knee, at one point a single member of the crowd would not take a knee, a couple of participants took exception, one member of the crowd and one of the organizers of a rally last Tuesday, Jesse Lipscombe, walked into the crowd and hugged the person, in a show of love over violence. That was the theme for the day and Edmonton had a lot of Love.
As the Rally ended the crowd worked its way up the hill and down 107 to Jasper Avenue. There were others that could not get into the leg grounds and they stayed in their cars honking and waving their own signs as the crowd walked by. The cars were in the hundreds and everyone was peaceful. The EPS and Sheriff’s presence was minimal, and really caused no problems. Police posed for pictures with crowd members and even took a knee at the High-Level Bridge.
There was no segregation, there was love on this night. From a crowd that was large enough to cause problems. From a Crowd that was not only in every age group but also every culture, making it one of the most diverse and organic rallies in Edmonton, in a long time. I was proud of our city! I was proud to be able to get the story out there and proud to be a part of history even if only a very small part.
There was one incident that occurred when police with rifles appeared in front of protestors later in the night. This after officers had taken a knee in support of the protest. The appearance of rifles agitated some of the protestors but nothing arose out of the incident. It should be noted at no time was there any violence something that many in the BLM community had preached to protestors, but also so had the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, Rev Bernice King and the Brother of George Floyd, Terrence Floyd at the spot where his brother was killed.
This movement is what Rosa Parks, Katherine G. Johnson, the Martin Luther King Jr., George Floyd, Elijah McCoy, Chantal Moore, Rodney King, Jean Augustine, Levi Foy, Abel Evan Francois, Zotique Kahkikyas and those others who have been victimized by the system, whether through residential schools, internment camps police or society in and of itself, started. It is our job to ensure that job is completed.
2020 will be a year of challenge and change, for the better of society, for the better of all people. It has already started as hundreds of thousands of people are speaking out in rallies around the world from 20 year old Paris, in New York, who kept protesters positive and walked with the police commander, all while marching peacefully through Manhattan, to thousands around the world taking a stand.
So a 6 year old has captured this all in one sentence. Yes Gianna, Daddy Changed the World