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Bow Valley raises fist at Black Lives Matter rallies

Video, photos and the story from the Black Lives Matter vigil and march in Banff, Saturday (June 6).

BOW VALLEY – Supporters of Black Lives Matter held vigils and marches in Canmore and Banff on Friday and Saturday (June 5-6), speaking out against racism and police brutality towards black, Indigenous and coloured communities.

On Saturday in Banff, over 600 people attended the peaceful rally with some carrying ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs, while others chanted “Black Lives Matter,” "George Floyd" and “Indigenous Lives Matter” – but they were all showing unity to end white silence on important conversations.

“Appeal. Don’t let the feeling just go away. Do something. Do something,” said Allison Yearwood, one of the speakers at the rally.

At Central Park, Yearwood fought back tears while saying the names of black and Indigenous people killed at the hands of police in the U.S. and Canada. She ended with George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 in Minneapolis, U.S.

Rallies erupted worldwide following the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by a white police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck as he suffocated. The death was captured on video.

The police officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired from the force and charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers present were also fired and are facing charges in Floyd’s death.

“You can’t really see that video [of George Floyd's death] and not feel something,” said Canmore’s Benjamin Chambefort, who marched at Banff’s rally. “The system is broken like the police system, it actively protects corrupt cops – not every cop is bad, obviously, but when your system protects those who are bad, something is wrong.”

Banff’s Ann Marie marched Saturday for those “who are losing lives right now and being with them throughout this and that’s the least I can do,” she said.

After the march from Central Park down Banff Ave. to Bear Street and back, the crowd took a knee in the park while church bells rang at St. Georges-in-the-Pines 46 times for Floyd’s age.

Banff resident and author Jean Roberts spoke to the large crowd, saying when she moved to Banff 22 years ago from the small Caribbean island of Grenada, one of the reasons she stayed in the resort town was because she was “able to be a tourist.”

“I didn’t have to be a black woman, I didn’t have to be a woman of colour, I didn’t have to be any of those things. I can just be a tourist in this town and that also means I am an avoider,” Roberts said. “I am person that always stands on the sideline, I’ve always been a bystander.

“Most people ask me this question all the time, ‘Where are you from? And it also frustrates me … the reason it frustrates me so much is because I realized people don’t want to get to know me, they just want to know where I’m from. If you want to know where I’m from and who I am, ask me my name and then where I’m from.”

The rally also acknowledged the Bow Valley's Indigenous residents and neighbours.

“Indigenous racism is Canada’s racism,” said Aurora Borin, Saturday's organizer. “And for so long we have swept it under the rug and looked away. When the commission on residential schools comes out with cultural genocide, we care more about the words than the contents … I hope this will be a turning point.”

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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