UPDATE: Black Lives Matter march comes to Chatham-Kent

Black Lives Matter march in Chatham on June 5, 2020 (Photo via Darrin Canniff Facebook)

One of the organizers of a local Black Lives Matter march says she’s thrilled with all the support the event received.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Chatham Friday night for a peaceful demonstration.

Organizer Erykah Bugros said all the coordinators were excited to see the community of Chatham-Kent come together. Although they anticipated a large crowd of supporters, she said it exceeded their expectations.

“You couldn’t see the end of the crowd. It turned out way better than expected and we’re just super excited,” said Bugros.

Those in attendance walked or drove from the Wish Centre on King Street East, to the Civic Centre on King Street West. It’s estimated that upwards of 2,000 people took part.

The march was held in the wake of the police-involved death of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minnesota. Floyd, 46, died after being held down by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, who was seen on video pressing his knee onto a prone, handcuffed Floyd.

Similar demonstrations have been held in dozens of cities across North America.

Bugros said the vibe of the rally in Chatham remained completely peaceful and positive throughout the night.

“We had a lot of people sharing their stories and sharing their hurt as well,” she explained. “I think it was a great mix of happiness and coming together for a great cause as well as sharing that hurt and that pain.”

In a Facebook post, Mayor Darrin Canniff expressed his support for the movement, stating that it was his family’s privilege to be there for the residents taking part in the rally.

“We stand in solidarity with the Black community,” Canniff stated. “Our local history as a destination of refuge from those fleeing slavery and oppression, as important as it is, does not make Chatham-Kent immune to the racism that plagues society.”

The municipal flag outside the Civic Centre was lowered to demonstrate Chatham-Kent’s commitment to the cause of racial equality. In addition, Chatham-Kent police blocked off intersections to help the march proceed without incident. Community members were also joined by members of the police service who all knelt down together.

Bugros said the support from the municipality was a wonderful thing to see.

“It made us feel like we have a future in creating change. So hopefully, that’s a sign we can follow up on this and make some change within our community,” she said.

Despite the large crowd, Bugros said those in attendance were respectable and cautious of current COVID-19 health restrictions. She added that people were on site to distribute masks and hand sanitizer.

Although the march may now be over, the battle against systemic discrimination and racism is not. Bugros encouraged others to educate themselves on issues that the black community faces and said it can all start with the simple act of listening.

“Hear the black community’s stories, have a conversation. Just hear them out. I think if you just hear them out and listen and hear what the black community has to say, it’s really enlightening and you’ll better understand the black community is going through and how we feel,” she said. “The fight isn’t over. Black lives matter now they will matter forever, just keep the momentum up.”

Posted by Thador Tekhli on Friday, June 5, 2020