Montreal: Thousands are marching in the streets of downtown Montreal today to protest systemic discrimination and racism.
The march, gathering activists and politicians from all walks of life, is one of a few events planned in Quebec.
Demonstrators gathered at a large square in downtown Montreal to listen to speakers before heading towards the city’s core, chanting “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace.”
It’s the second Sunday in a row that a rally has been held since the release of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, for nearly nine minutes.
Floyd fell still and died, the officer’s knee still on his neck.
His death has sparked demonstrations denouncing racist violence and police impunity right across the globe.
Events were held Saturday in several Canadian cities including Toronto, St. John’s and London, Ont.
Willy Tchuilen Njatcha said he came because for 12 years, he is “not able to breathe.”
He said he is a victim of discrimination “and I’m here to scream it out loud.”
Njatcha, who is black, said he has had difficulties working and providing for his family because of discrimination.
“I could be the next George Floyd. I don’t want it to happen to me, it’s why I’m here right now,” he added. “I’m calling on politicians to act now and go deeply inside and investigate what’s happening to us.”
Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, who recently became the first black woman to lead a provincial party, attended the protest.
“When we hear the stories by those here today, we feel the need to say never again,” said Anglade.
But to be convinced of this requires concrete actions and strong political positions on racism and discrimination, she said.
“Each time one of us falls, each time one of us lives a problem, it’s society in its entirety that should be concerned,” Anglade said.
Demonstrations were also expected Sunday in front of the Quebec national assembly building in the provincial capital as well as in Sherbrooke, east of Montreal.
Montreal’s police chief Sylvain Caron had an offer to attend the Sunday rally rescinded on Saturday after organizers explained some participants and groups were opposed to his presence.
The force said on its social media page it respected the decision and noted officers would be present to keep tabs on the march.
Police praised the “order and respect” demonstrated by thousands who previously marched to express their indignation over Floyd’s death.
But on Ste-Catherine Street in the city’s downtown core, many merchants have boarded up their windows as a preventative measure.
Following the peaceful rally one week ago, looters and vandals got into confrontations with police, with thefts and damage including some store windows smashed.
Montreal police have said they considered the vandalism last week a separate matter by people who took advantage of the protest to commit crimes.
On Saturday, they published the photos of people caught on store cameras in the midst of the looting in an effort to make arrests.
By Sidhartha Banerjee
The Canadian Press