The civil rights demonstrations and marches that have erupted after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody last week continue to occupy people, politicians and current affairs both here and in the United States. After thousands showed up at a march in Kitchener Wednesday, the City of Guelph and the Guelph Police Service have both put out messages in advance of Saturday’s event in Downtown Guelph.
First, the City of Guelph put out a message Thursday morning to tell the public that City Hall, the Market Square Pavilion (aka the splash pad/rink), and the public washrooms will remain closed per the City’s response to COVID-19. On that account, the City is encouraging people to continue to follow public health guidelines, but they seem to be doing nothing to discourage the gathering. There will also be no parking allowed on Carden Street on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Guelph Police Service seems to be taking a proactive approach to supporting the community, and their desire to demonstrate against anti-Black racism and discrimination. In a unattributed statement posted to the GPS website, the Service reassures the community that they’re here to protect and serve, and that they want to learn from the community on how best to change to serve them better.
“We value the rich partnerships and relationships that we have developed with our community over the years. We stand united and in solidarity with our community and any who have experienced racism or discrimination of any kind,” the statement read. “The Guelph Police Service is committed to and embraces diversity, equity and inclusion. As the leader of our Service, it is my expectation that we will, at all times, provide kind, compassionate and bias-free policing to our citizens.”
The chair of the Police Services Board posted a separate statement of support. “I want to assure all people in our community that we believe that diversity is a strength and that we share the commitment of the Guelph Police Service to ensure the safety and security of every single member of our community,” wrote Robert Carter.
“This event will see our community stand in solidarity to call for an end to anti-Black racism and to take action against discrimination. Your voice matters,” Carter added. “We need to find solutions together, and I thank the community on behalf of the Guelph Police Services Board for voicing your concerns, and for your willingness to work together with us to address the changes needed to end racial discrimination and injustice.”
These notes from the City of Guelph and the Guelph Police Service come the day after thousands of people showed up at a similar protest in downtown Kitchener. The K-W Solidarity March featured crowds so huge that they filled intersections at Charles and Gaukel streets, down Gaukel Street and overflowing into Victoria Park. One source pegged the number of participants in Wednesday’s rally at 12,000.
Guelph Black Heritage Society is leading Saturday’s event, which they’re calling a “local peaceful march and protest to raise awareness for the lives lost in violence and to show solidarity for the families and communities most impacted.” Musician Andrew Craig, community activist Marva Wisdom, spoken word artists Audny-Cashae Stewart and Natalie Ann, and organizer Kayla “Kween” Gerber are among the speakers who will be featured.
The march begins at 2 pm in front of City Hall on Carden Street. Everyone is welcome, but the organizers are asking that you wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and if you have COVID-19 symptoms like a cough or a fever, they’re asking you to stay home.