Cops take a knee at massive anti-racism protest in downtown Toronto
Toronto is off to a strong and peaceful start in what's expected to be a weekend filled with anti-Black racism protests across the city.
The first high-profile event, a march to honour George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all Black lives lost to police violence, kicked off around noon this afternoon with a moving display of solidarity outside Toronto's busy Bloor-Yonge Station.
Thousands of people could be seen around the interection of Bloor and Yonge Streets on their knees, fists raised in the air, silent except for the powerful messages shining forth from their protest signs.
To the surprise of many Americans, I'm sure, Toronto Police greeted protesters at the scene not to yell at them, hit them, or disperse tear gas, but to join them in taking a knee.
"We see you and we are listening," wrote TPS Chief Mark Saunders on Twitter of the move.
"The Toronto Police fully supports peaceful and safe protests this weekend and always. We have to all stay in this together to make change."
Protest attendees began chanting "Black Lives Matter!" while gathered at the march's beginning point, though it should be noted that the Black Lives Matter advocacy group did not organize any protests this weekend.
Following the rally at Bloor and Yonge, protesters headed south to, as one organizer put it earlier this week, "walk in peace for justice."
Protesters in Toronto shouting “I Can’t Breathe!” pic.twitter.com/CsScM5yXwv— Coffee With a Shot of Cynicism (@gilmorepodcast) June 5, 2020
While the event's name has been billed as the "I CAN'T BREATHE" march, referencing the murder of Floyd, who was brutally asphyxiated by police in Minneapolis last week, many are also referring to it on Twitter as the "March For Change."
There are two anti-racism marches in Toronto today. This is the I Can’t Breathe March. After circling Yonge Dundas they’re heading back north on Bay to end at Yonge Bloor. pic.twitter.com/jINHXk9nQW— 🚀Melissa Tait (@meltait) June 5, 2020
It appears as though two separate marches are actually taking place, though they are linking up at parts along the way to raise their voices together.
Some people stopped in Yonge-Dundas Square to chant and show off their signs.
Others demonstrated in Nathan Phillips Square.
Thousands just kept on walking through the streets, making their beliefs known.
Attendees on the whole have been behaving much like they did during last Saturday's walk for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a young woman who recently died during an interaction with police in Toronto.
That is to say, everything has been peaceful, despite fears of potential riots breaking out like those raging across the U.S. right now (though reports speculate that if riots do take place in Toronto, they'll happen on June 6).
Tons of energy, on a hot day. Thousands join Toronto protest march. Calling out #BlackLivesMatter and demanding change through society from police to workforce to opportunity deficit. @CBCNews @CBCTheNational pic.twitter.com/9UJnjTD3Nt— David Common (@davidcommon) June 5, 2020
Protesters appeared as respectful as possible of COVID-19 emergency orders, most of them wearing masks and spacing themselves apart even while filling the streets of Toronto's downtown core.
The marches continue around Toronto all afternoon, with separate rallies planned in both Nathan Phillips Square and Yonge-Dundas Square on Friday at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.
Additional protests are planned on Saturday, though attendees are advised to proceed with caution due to unconfirmed threats of violence from anarchist groups on social media.
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