Marches in Ottawa, Toronto to honour black lives lost at hands of police

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OTTAWA — Demonstrators plan to march from Parliament Hill through Ottawa streets in mid-afternoon today to honour black lives lost at the hands of police.

A similarly themed Toronto march is slated to proceed south in the early afternoon from the Bloor-Yonge subway station, circling back north to city hall.

The demonstrations follow days of protests across the United States after a video showed Minneapolis police killing a black man, George Floyd, unleashing a torrent of anger over persistent racism.

A police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.

The Ottawa event is being organized by No Peace Until Justice, formed by a young black woman.

The group says its goal is to bring together black activists and organizations and allies to stand in solidarity against police brutality and societal racism.

The event has touched off some online controversy about who is welcome to attend.

The Ottawa police were not invited at the request of the No Peace Until Justice organizers.

After Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson noted his intention to be there, the group said he was invited via Twitter by unaffiliated individuals. “The No Peace Until Justice organizers did not reach out to him or his office.”

The group says it opposes all streaming and the taking of videos or photos of the demonstration to protect the identity and safety of those attending.

For their part, the Ottawa police say public safety is a shared responsibility.

“We are working with organizers and all stakeholders to enable a safe, healthy and positive event,” the police service said Thursday.

“You have a right to be heard. And we will support that right by ensuring your safety.”

Participants must recognize the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and police are working with organizers and Ottawa public-health officials to make personal protective equipment available to demonstrators, the force added.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press