A heavy spring rain did not dampen the spirits or the voices of anti-racism protesters Friday afternoon, June 5, 2020 in Williams Lake.
Spearheaded by local Grade 12 teen Rea Klar and friends just a few days before, the protest started at the Save-On-Foods parking lot at 2 p.m. and saw more than 130 protesters rally peacefully – but not quietly – on the sidewalks past the RCMP detachment on Borland Street, in front of city hall on Fourth Avenue and down Oliver Street against racism and police brutality.
“I remember driving into Save-on-Foods and instantly becoming bewildered at the sight of how many supporters there were” Klar said, looking back at the event. “Originally, I estimated an outcome of between 20-30 people, but never imagined an outcome of 140. I was certainly anxious at the start, but at the end I truly felt at peace.”
Klar believes the global protests seen in recent weeks which inspired her to protest are escalating due to racism, ignorance and arrogance.
“I wanted to show that Canada isn’t perfect,” Klar said of why she organized the march. “It does have some racism in it and we need to educate ourselves about this and just support people of colour. Everyone should be equal.”
Klar hosted a gathering Thursday afternoon, June 4 with friends Tanya Mattu, Seerat Sanghera and others, to make signs promoting equality for all.
Sanghera said she’s proud to be a part of the rally. All three young women nodded their heads when asked if they experienced racism, with Sanghera adding “a lot.”
“I can say there is discrimination in Canada as much as some people say that there isn’t, there definitely is,” Sanghera said.
Klar said she does feel racism isn’t quite as extreme in Canada as it is in the U.S., however, it is still important to raise the issue.
They all agreed, racism hurts.
“When I was younger it used to bother me a lot more than it does now. I feel like I’m more desensitized to it because I realized ‘oh, I guess it just comes with it,'” said Sanghera.
“In a sense, it’s also empowering,” added Klar of experiencing racism. “I feel like it’s raised me to become stronger as an individual and it has taught me to accept people more and be more open-minded.”
Sanghera said racism shouldn’t just be ignored.
“You can’t exactly run away from it. It’s everywhere.”
The rally in Williams Lake included many younger protesters, however, there were participants of all ages and ethnicity who took part.
Many protesters chanted ‘I can’t breathe.’
Similar protests are planned for Quesnel and small community of Wells.