Thousands in Canada protest the police killing of George Floyd

By Lincoln Depradine

George Floyd

Thousands of people in Canada, the Caribbean and other parts of the world, have joined millions in the United States in expressing anger at the police killing in Minnesota of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

A medical examiner on Monday classified Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying the man’s heart stopped as police restrained him and suppressed his neck..

The four officers involved in the incident with Floyd have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. Derek Chauvin , one of the four, who is white, been arrested and is facing second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

The three other officers were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Chauvin is caught on a widely seen video pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s cries, saying he couldn’t breathe, were ignored by Chauvin and his three fellow officers.

Floyd’s death  on May 25 last, is the latest case in a long history, in which unarmed African-American men and women have lost their lives in interactions with police.

“Anybody who is African-American and is not hurt, something is wrong. We, who are not African-American but who are of African descent, when we see a knee on a neck, we ought to be outraged,’’ said Trinidad-born clergyman Clyde Martin Harvey.

Harvey, who is the Roman Catholic Bishop in Grenada, told his  followers that Floyd’s death should not evoke only anger.

“It also, I hope, moves us to pray,’’ said Bishop Harvey.

He pointed out that black people in countries, other than the US, also are confronting discrimination.

“We want you, who are in these counties and living with a certain degree of fear, to know that we are with you in your pain, in your struggle, because God is with you,’’ said Harvey.

“If we are not with you, we are not with God and we want to be with God. So, we stand with you and we ask God to protect you from the evil that rages; to protect especially your sons.’’

Floyd’s death has sparked protests in the US, as well as acts of looting  which have led to the imposition of curfews and the deployment of thousands of National Guard members in many states.

“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States,’’ said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “But, it is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we, too, have our challenges; that black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day. There is systemic discrimination in Canada.’’

Canadian demonstrators, who have taken to the streets in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Windsor, not only have been protesting Floyd’s killing but also discrimination and police behaviour in Canada.

“We’re here because of George Floyd and we want to remember him as the human being that he was,’’ said Courtney Henderson, who participated in a protest march last Sunday in Windsor. “It’s important to me because I see innocent people losing their lives at the hands of police — hands of systemic oppression and institutionalized racism and it doesn’t just happen in America; it happens here in Canada.’’

Marie-Livia Beauge, one of the organizers of last Sunday’s Montreal rally, described it as an “important’’ event. 

“The George Floyd event is not a singular event,” Beauge said. “It keeps happening and it’s happening here in Montreal.’’

Federal Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic Party (NDP) leaders commented on Floyd’s killing and on racism faced by people of African descent in Canada.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the video of Floyd’s death “chilling’’ and “painful,’’, saying “we need to tackle the injustice in the criminal justice system — the over-policing of black bodies and black lives’’.

Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party leader, said he was “heartbroken’’ to see the video, adding that “no one should ever feel unsafe around police officers who must uphold the law for all, or feel unsafe because of the colour of their skin’’.

According to Prime Minister Trudeau, who also is Liberal Party leader, “prejudice, discrimination and violence are a lived reality for far too many people’’ and “it needs to stop’’.

“Anti-black racism is happening here; everywhere in Canada, every single day. This is something that our own staff, cabinet ministers and colleagues face, even in these halls,’’ Trudeau said in an address to parliament.

“Every person who marches and posts and reads and fights – from Vancouver to Montreal to Halifax – expects more than the status quo. They expect more and deserve better,’’ he added.