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Black Lives Matter march coming to North Bay on Saturday

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Two local youths have decided they have had enough.

This Saturday, Kaiden Peljack and Kile George have organized a Black Lives Matter march. The march will begin at Rollie Fischer Field at 1:00 p.m. and make its way to North Bay City Hall. The march will run down Ferguson Street before turning onto Worthington Street towards City Hall.

“This Saturday we are holding a vigil for George Floyd, Regis Korchinsky-Paquet, and the countless other victims of police brutality that is a result of institutionalized racism,” Peljack explained.

The vigil will also honour the life of Ahmaud Arbery.

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Growing up a black man in Canada, Peljack says the protests have hit closer to home.

“Seeing the protests have been nice because it shows worldwide support, but it has also been hard to watch,” he said. “As people have been peacefully protesting against police brutality, they have been met with police brutality. I am proud and happy that the world is taking on these protests, but it is scary to see the brutality and systematic oppression in such a blatant world view.”

However, Peljack says there has been a lot of support for the march, even though the idea just came about in the last couple of days.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the community, and a lot of members reach out and show support,” Peljack said. “Mayor Al McDonald called and showed his support and made sure the event will go as smoothly as possible. The police themselves as well have shown their support.”

Yet, with the support, the pair says there has been some backlash as well.

“Some people don’t understand why we are having this event and why this march is so important,” Peljack said. “I think that people not understanding only goes to show that Canada has room to improve and that Canada isn’t innocent and it’s Canada’s first step to ensuring that we don’t fall into the same pattern as the United States is to recognize our own issues.”

“A lot of people think that because we live in northern Ontario, we don’t experience stuff like that so ‘why should we care?’” George added. “It’s the notion of injustice anywhere is still injustice everywhere so we have to do our part to make sure voices are heard everywhere.”

The pushback only fuels the motivation to make sure their voices are heard, according to Peljack.

“I think that people need to understand that as a black man in Canada, I still have experienced extreme racism,” he said. “For people to say it’s only an American issue completely ignores the brutality and micro and macro aggressions of racism that are still very prevalent in Canada.”

“I think that people showing they don’t understand or don’t support it encourages the rest of us to speak out,” Peljack continued. “Now we understand just how much this education is necessary to the public and Canadian society so if anything, the pushback makes the movement stronger.”

Even with all the protests and anger in the world on the topic, Peljack believes there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“In 2020, with social media and having such strong people of colour in positions of influence, racism and systematic oppression no longer have a place to hide,” he said. “Even though right now everything seems like chaos, this is the start to real change.”

Work has also done to make sure the march is safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re making sure people who are attending are coming prepared,” George said. “We’ve asked all attendees to bring masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and whatever else they feel necessary. We will have people throughout the march making sure that everyone participating is obeying the six feet apart rule. As much as we want to rally and get together, everyone is staying safe because we are in the middle of a pandemic.”

“We are planning on calling the local health unit to ask if they have any other advice and we have been in contact with the City and Police Services to make sure we have thought of everything,” she added.

“We will be handing out masks and other things like gloves and sanitizer so that people who do wish to attend, but don’t have the equipment to do so can still come and show their support,” Peljack said.

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