What started as a large gathering of young and old — many wearing pandemic-related face masks and holding signs around the Rotary Bandshell in Riverside Park without any sort of direction — was quickly organized when five women of colour took to the stage on Thursday.
Hundreds of people converged in Riverside Park on Thursday afternoon to take part in the protest against racism and the deaths of people of colour at the hands of police.
People of all ages ventured to the downtown park, many with signs in hand, despite the fact organizers announced cancellation of the event after receiving criticism on social media because people of colour are not planning the rally.
The quintet on stage included an Indigenous woman who shared stories of discrimination and sent out calls for justice.
People in the crowd gathered around, with some shouting words of encouragement. One woman began reading aloud the names of people of colour who have died at the hands of police, while those in the crowd shouted those names back.
Les Carty, a Kamloops resident, also took to the stage to share his story from two years ago, on March 21, 2018, when he was held at gunpoint in his own yard by an RCMP officer.
Carty was having trouble using a key to open a shed in his backyard — where he kept his motorcycle — when a Mountie from the nearby Kamloops RCMP detachment on Battle Street saw him, assumed it was a break-in, and ran over, surprising Carty by pulling his gun and demanding he leave the shed.
Carty, in posts on Facebook and in speaking to the crowd in Riverside Park on Thursday, said it was. a case of racial profiling, adding he is still not satisfied with how his complaint is being handled.
On his Facebook page prior to the protest, Carty wrote:
“This does happen in Kamloops! I, too, have a story. The short of it is I was held with a gun pointing at my chest by the RCMP police in my own shed on my own property. Why? Simply because the police saw a POC [person of colour], trying the get into his shed with keys, from their police station window and saw a black man doing a b&e. But with keys. Was I shot? No. Did it mess me up? For sure. Is it resolved? Hell, no. Two years and still waiting for answers — real answers. So I'm done being quiet, done waiting, done being the elephant in the room. Just done. And blessed my name wasn't added to the list on March 21, 2018.”
The protest was one of many organized across North America in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd while being arrested by police in Minneapolis.