News / Vancouver

Black Lives Matter rallies against racism, praises Vancouverites’ ‘ally-ship’

A crowd of hundreds packed into Robson Square downtown Sunday afternoon in response to racism and violence.

At a Black Lives Matter Vancouver vigil early Sunday afternoon, Kombii Nanjalah speaks to a crowd of hundreds at Robson Square.

David P. Ball / Metro

At a Black Lives Matter Vancouver vigil early Sunday afternoon, Kombii Nanjalah speaks to a crowd of hundreds at Robson Square.

An organizer of a Black Lives Matter Vancouver vigil on Sunday said the solidarity shown by fellow city residents has helped her community cope with “confusion, anger, hurt, sadness and despair” at the mounting number of African-Americans killed by police.

Speaking to a densely packed crowd of more than 500 people in Robson Square, Cicely Belle Blain said the distressing events of the past week have added to “the exhaustion of repeated loss” many are feeling.

“But with it we are feeling for the first time a real sense of community and ally-ship from our fellow Vancouverites,” she said, “and for that we thank you all.

The Black Lives Matter organizer called for a moment of silence to remember the “black bodies mercilessly taken from us,” but also questioned why it seems to take the death of black people to spark public outrage — when racism happens every day, both people of colour and Indigenous people here in Vancouver.

“Why does it take our bodies to be slain to remind people that black lives matter?” she asked.

Another rally speaker, Kombii Nanjalah, told the crowd that the growing movement would become much “more than just a footnote in world history.”

She said Sunday’s vigil was sparked after she saw the filmed police shooting of Philando Castile, 32, last Wednesday in Minnesota — shortly after the killing of Alton Stirling, 37, in Louisiana by officers.

“The first thing on my mind was, ‘Let me share it with the world,’” she said, “because it had just happened 24 hours after the first shooting.” Just the latest killings this year, Castile’s live-streamed death “just adds more wounds and death, suffering and fear,” she said.

According to the Washington Post, U.S. police killed 123 black people out of a total 512 civilians they killed so far this year; in 2015, they killed 258 black people out of 990 total.

“Driving and walking while black, my only sin is my skin,” she added. “I’m very happy that the BLM came by my side to hold me. Here we stand together as one.”

The Vancouver protest, a local incarnation of the North America-wide anti-racism movement, came just days after police in Dallas were ambushed by an ex-soldier at a Black Lives Matter march on Thursday night — an attack that left five officers dead, seven wounded, and two civilian protesters shot.

Police used a robot to kill Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old Afghanistan veteran, who according to Dallas’ police chief wanted to “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers” in retaliation for black people killed by police.

Belle Blain condemned the Dallas shooter as “someone driven so angry and hateful by the destruction, systemic erasure, and ongoing demise of our community that they were driven to reproduce the same violence we are trying to combat,” she said. “Black Lives Matter has committed itself to nonviolent action, and we have not once wavered on this.

“We are sad to see that the actions of this individual have been associated with this movement and want to fervently say we do not approve of these crimes.”

Near the end of her speech, Belle Blain spoke directly to white and other non-black participants residents of the city: “Don’t let it take another death for us to see you here like this.”

More on