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Thousands protest anti-black racism in downtown Toronto Saturday

Last Updated Jun 7, 2020 at 8:41 am EDT

Thousands of people gathered peacefully in downtown Toronto Saturday to protest against anti-black racism.

There were two separate rallies that lasted most of the afternoon.

The demonstrators walking from Nathan Phillips Square paused at the U.S. Consulate and took a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time George Floyd spent lying on the ground as a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on his Floyd’s neck.

Cars honked in support as they passed the people kneeling outside the consulate and the Superior courthouse, which are across the street from each other.

People held signs saying “black lives matter,” “stop killing us” and “no justice, no peace.”

Jay Smith, who attended the demonstration with his young son, said he wants to see police reform and more transparency as a result of the protests.

“It’s important for…my son to see that people support us in terms of justice, in terms of equality, to stop police brutality,” said Smith, who added he’s glad the protests are continuing from last week.

“If it does stop, no one will pay attention and it’ll fizzle out into nothing.”

Shay Hamilton said she wants the momentum to continue.

“It’s just very important for us to be here because we are an interracial couple and we do believe in unity,” said Hamilton, a black woman who was protesting with her white partner.

Toronto Police Insp. Matt Moyer took a knee with the demonstrators and said it was emotional.

A group calling itself Action for Injustice staged the peaceful walk that was set to end at Yonge Dundas Square, but continued up Yonge Street and went back to Toronto City Hall, lasting well over three hours.

The peaceful gathering was briefly interrupted by a man who showed up in blackface at Nathan Phillips Square, but he was quickly escorted away by police. Toronto police say he has been charged with breaching of the peace.

Police said a second man was arrested after he was spotted holding a large knife while observing the protest near Yonge and Grosvenor streets. After a brief chase, 21-year-old Boyu Shi was found with three knives in his possession and was charged with several weapons offences.

A second rally took place at Trinity Bellwoods Park hundreds of protesters took a knee with their fists held in the air before making their way to Queen’s Park.

Police Chief Mark Saunders said he hopes the rallies spur real change.

“We can’t let go of this energy,” he said. “They are our future. They’ve been watching us. They’ve seen things that they haven’t liked. All of this incremental change, there has to be big change…We’ve got to get it right.”

A man holds up a “Black Lives Matter” sign at Trinity Bellwoods Park ahead of an anti-Black racism rally. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

In Toronto, these were the third and fourth such events over the course of a week.

Both events were not affiliated with Black Lives Matter TO or Not Another Black Life who organized last Saturday’s peaceful protest over the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

CityNews and 680 NEWS reporters will be covering the rallies live today. Follow along here:

Several others are take place across Canada today to protest police violence against black people.

A demonstration was held in Vaughan near Jane Street and Rutherford Road. York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween attended the rally and later tweeted, “Today I stood with our Black community and we will continue to do so. Solutions can be found if we all stand together.”

Events were also held in several other Ontario cities including Guelph, London and Niagara Falls, where the Whirlpool Bridge to the United States was closed Saturday to all but essential traffic so demonstrators could protest.

A similar event on Friday drew thousands of demonstrators, who marched peacefully through the downtown core to city hall chanting “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”

At one point Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders took a knee alongside a group of protesters, saying afterwards he “fully supports peaceful and safe protests this weekend and always.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said that he was glad Friday’s event was peaceful and hopes Saturday’s will be as well.

“The message from those protesters is we simply have to involve every person and every effort to wipe out anti-black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, racism and discrimination of any kind in this city, and make it the most inclusive city in the world,” he said Saturday.

“That’s the message that has been heard loud and clear.”

The rallies are the latest in a series of protests following the release of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, who spent the last eight minutes of his life lying on the pavement after being arrested for allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill.

South of the border outraged Americans are expected to flood the national capital this weekend. There they will be greeted by two oversized, street-level reactions to the country’s latest historic flashpoint.

“Black Lives Matter” – block letters as tall as the roadway is wide, stencilled by city workers in yellow traffic paint – jumps off the asphalt along the two blocks of 16th Street leading to Lafayette Square, ending just before the pastel walls of the boarded-up St. John’s Episcopal Church.