Four Vankleek Hill students decided to organize a rally in their home town on June 12 to take part in the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement against racism and social injustice towards all ethnic groups. Anna and Amelia Kouao and Nora and Georgia Dawood weren’t sure what kind of response they would get to the social media postings for their We Are One rally June 12 in the mid-afternoon.
By three o’clock that day, the scheduled starting time for the rally, dozens of people, ranging in age from children to seniors, and including police, township council members, and others, gathered in front of the Vankleek Hill Creating Centre at the corner of Main Street and High Street. Almost everyone wore face masks and followed social distancing precautions as they marched up High Street as far as the Zudio studio and then back to the Creating Centre.
Upon their return to the starting point of the march, everyone observed a period of silence lasting eight minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd, a black man who lived in Minneapolis, and other victims of racism. The long period of silence represents the time span during which Floyd struggled for breath while he lay face down and handcuffed while Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, held Floyd down with a knee on the back of his neck. Floyd died of suffocation. Chauvin now faces charges, as do the three other police officers who stood by and watched as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
Lynda Kitchikeesic, a veteran activist for First Nations rights, joined the gathering as a guest speaker. She is involved in a variety of projects and programs aimed at improving communications and relations between police and Indigenous people and other groups.