Meaningful change through peaceful protest

We have experienced some of the most chaotic and heartbreaking moments in the past few days along with some uplifting events that have served as counterbalance weights. These swings between historic lows and highs have been drastic and at times, shocking and beyond comprehension.

I sit at my desk as I think about what I should write, listening instead to a peaceful protest being held at our legislative grounds. I want to applaud the youth in our community for organizing an event to denounce the egregious events that have taken place south of our border and to share their own stories about the racism and discrimination they experience in our community.

A few days earlier, I watched along with the rest of the world, a video that captured the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of one police officer while others stood and did nothing but watch him die. Indeed, I wondered what fresh hell is this? This unbelievable murderous act serves as a stark reminder of the depths of hatred and systemic racism that continue to plague what should be one of the world’s largest peaceful, democratic countries.

Thankfully the counterpoint to this horrific event were mass protests to register justified outrage and demands for real change across the United States. The risks of increasing the spread of the coronavirus through large public gatherings seemed balanced by the importance of people standing together to speak out with one voice against hate in all of its forms. To give voice to their pain, anger and enduring frustration. But without strong leadership, the protests became overshadowed by looters and anarchists.

Chaos was sparked in many of the protests by groups of self-interested individuals who seemed motivated by destruction and criminality rather than any desire for meaningful change through peaceful protest. The world woke up to numerous images of fires set, police cars overturned, looting, and lawlessness. The time seemed ripe for the United States President to step up, calm the nation, and begin the process of reconciliation and rebuilding.

Just when a person couldn’t imagine things getting any worse, the President decides not to calm this crisis but instead opts out by invoking a law and order mantra and hiding away in a bunker. Using social media to escalate and further inflame tensions and threaten citizens of his country with their own military. It all seems surreal.

We sat transfixed to our screens as the United States President stunned the world by using the National Guard to remove protestors through aggression and tear gas for a mind blowing photo op in front of a church he doesn’t actually attend, holding a bible in an outstretched hand like a theatrical prop.

This was the backdrop for the peaceful protest that has been organized by youth of colour in our community to show solidarity with George Floyds family and for the people hurt by continued systemic racism south of our border and here at home. They need to share their own stories about injustices and racism. Our job is to listen to them and then to take positive action for meaningful change.

Stay healthy and safe.

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