VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Demonstrators will be marching through downtown Vancouver Friday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to mark Juneteenth.
“Our lives are at stake right now and we are dealing with a pandemic. Black Lives Matter is the pandemic,” says Nova Stevens, co-organizer of the Freedom From Hate March set to start at 4:00 p.m. Friday at Jack Poole Plaza. Marchers will make their way along Thurlow Street and then to Sunset Beach for a rally, including speakers and performers.
“Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of [the end of] slavery in the United States. It was on June 19th, 1865 that slaves were emancipated in Texas,” Stevens tells CityNews.
June 19 is the day Union soldiers arrived in Texas with news the war had ended, and that slaves were now free. However, the Emancipation Proclamation was made official two years prior, in 1863.
Years later, Juneteenth still holds significant value.
“Even though it is an American holiday, it doesn’t mean that we cannot take that time to still reflect on how racial injustices affect us in our very home as well,” adds march spokesperson Clement Isanganino.
This is third major rally to happen in Vancouver in support of the Black Lives Matter movement over the past two months, and the first to include a march.
“Our ancestors marched, so it’s actually like empowering a different level. They marched for us so that we wouldn’t have to go through all this and now that we have to do the exact same thing they had to do, it’s liberating,” says co-organizer Shamika Mitchell, adding that the rally after the march will centre around a stage set up at Sunset Beach.
“We have a vendor village to showcase Black businesses. We will have speakers, spoken word and artists who will express everything they are feeling.”
Organizers say they are not working directly with the Vancouver Police Department, arranging for their own security to be present to ensure public safety and social distancing.
“We are not working alongside [police] because we don’t feel like this is a time to work alongside them,” explains Stevens. “They have not been working with us.”
The VPD released a statement saying officers will monitor the protest.
“Our primary purpose is to protect the safety of the protesters, the public and the police. We are working with coordinators who want this protest to remain peaceful and safe for everyone involved,” writes VPD Const. Tania Visintin.
For anyone uncomfortable with large crowds, due to the risk of COVID-19, Stevens says they will be able to join the march virtually.
“We will have a live stream so you will be able to watch at home and you are able to be there with us and listen to us.”