Hundreds gathered at the steps of the Saskatchewan legislature Tuesday to denounce racial injustice, while Premier Scott Moe took to social media to denounce those who defaced a war memorial not far from the building.
Before the rally, someone scrawled “Justice For Floyd #BLM” across one of the memorial stones. It was a reference to George Floyd, a black man who died under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee last week, as well as to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Floyd’s death a week ago set off intense demonstrations in many cities across the United States and in Canada.
“Peaceful protest is always welcome at our legislature,” Moe wrote on social media. “Vandalism is not acceptable … This is outrageous.”
Leaders of the rally said the graffiti did not come from them.
NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili took to Twitter during the event to say the premier’s focus on vandalism “sends the exact wrong message.”
“Black lives matter,” wrote Meili. “The premier needs to say it, to acknowledge the racism in Saskatchewan and get to work leading us forward.”
With Tuesday’s protest coming in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic, many of the demonstrators wore masks.
They held signs that decried silence towards racism. An image of Floyd’s face with his last words “I can’t breathe” was drawn in chalk on the steps in front of speakers.
At one point, the crowd of hundreds was asked to take a knee as the names of black people who have died in Saskatchewan and elsewhere were read aloud.
The list included Samwel Uko, who last month was found dead in nearby Wascana Lake. Reports say he had tried to get mental- health help at a hospital before his death.
Personal trainer Shanika Slinn held a sign with the words of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on it: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
“Whenever the term black lives matter comes up, we can’t be silent,” said Slinn, tears welling in her eyes. “This is my way of showing my voice.”
Slinn, who was born in Jamaica and has spent 15 years living in Regina, said for the most part people have treated her well, but not always.
“I have been called the N-word multiple times,” she said. “I’ve been told to go back to where I came from.
“I am not going to let this deter me from thinking that people are good.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020