Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders took a knee alongside a group of protesters rallying against anti-Black racism at Yonge and College Streets Friday.
At least 1,000 people attended the protest that began at Yonge and Bloor Streets, but paused at College Street where they were met by Saunders. At least one other police officer was seen kneeling alongside the police chief.
Several other police officers were also present to make sure the march remained peaceful. Protesters chanted “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace” throughout the march. While others held signs reading “Racism is a pandemic, too” or “Silence is violence.”
“We’re fed up. We need change and we do not trust police,” said one protester, John Coleman. “Black lives really matter.”
Another protester, Junae Watson, said she wanted to support her community and show black people are equal to other races.
“People have this conception that Canada doesn’t have a lot of racism, which isn’t true,” Watson said, adding she was happy with the turnout.
Saunders later tweeted a photo of himself kneeling with the statement, “We see you and we are listening. The Toronto Police fully supports peaceful and safe protests this weekend and always. We have to all stay in this together to make change.”
Premier Doug Ford called Saunders’s actions as “true leadership.” He added he appreciated that those who were participating remained peaceful through the march.
The premier also said it is up to politicians if they wish to participate in these protests.
The organizers of the rally were unknown, but not affiliated with Black Lives Matter TO or Not Another Black Life who organized last Saturday’s peaceful protest.
The rally stretched down Yonge Street and ended at Nathan Phillips Square where protesters once again took a knee outside City Hall and began chanting “I can’t breathe.”
Hundreds of anti-black racism protestors at Nathan Phillips Square chanting “I Can’t Breathe!” before taking to the streets again pic.twitter.com/ZzyoP7Q4Np
— Mark McAllister (@McAllister_Mark) June 5, 2020
The demonstration followed days of protests in the United States over the death of George Floyd and the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto on May 27, which is currently being probed by the province’s police watchdog.
The 29-year-old fell from the balcony of a 24th-floor Toronto apartment while police were in the home.
Other protests have reportedly been planned for this weekend, but who is organizing them and their locations have not been made clear.
Police were not able to provide any more details, only confirming there would be a few protests occurring over the weekend.
When asked if it was safe for protesters to be out this weekend, Saunders said they are asking for peace.
“As always, there may be a percentage of those that might be here for other agendas and we ask that everyone cooperates. If you see people like that, please record it, send it to us and we will deal with it when the time comes,” said Saunders.
The Eaton Centre closed its doors over the weekend in advance of more protests, although only curbside stores were open due to coronavirus restrictions, and several businesses along Yonge had boarded up their windows.
Saunders has repeatedly said they have not advised any businesses to board up.
With files from The Canadian Press
#BREAKING A crowd of perhaps 300 demonstrators has begun a peaceful march down Yonge St. from Bloor. It’s a rally for justice for George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet. @680NEWS pic.twitter.com/gl8miocsCA
— Mark Douglas (@Douglas680NEWS) June 5, 2020