PHOTOS: Thousands attend rally for Black lives in downtown Victoria

Pam Buisa (left), Asiyah Robinson and Vanessa Simon organized a peace rally for the Black Lives Matter movement that drew thousands to Victoria’s Centennial Square on Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the US. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Pam Buisa (left), Asiyah Robinson and Vanessa Simon organized a peace rally for the Black Lives Matter movement that drew thousands to Victoria’s Centennial Square on Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
One woman holds up a sign illustrated like a comic book, with its characters voicing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
A peaceful protestor at Centennial Square holds up a sign that reads: “Some jobs everybody gotta be good.”(Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
One woman holds up a sign that reads: “Time to listen.” (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
A large percentage of attendees arrived in masks, and those that forgot were greeted with volunteers handing out masks and gloves. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the US. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
Pam Buisa, one of the organizers behind Sunday’s event, lifts her first in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square, some even in surrounding buildings, for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was among the thousands in Centennail Square on Sunday afternoon for the peace rally for Black lives. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Some people filled the stairs of the Centennial Square Parkade in hopes of getting a better view. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Asiyah Robinson, one of the organizers of Sunday’s peace rally, speaks to the thousands of people who attended. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
People could be seen on the roof of Centennial Square Parkade, trying to get a better view of the rally down below. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Thousands filled Centennial Square for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)

Thousands attended a peace rally for Black lives in downtown Victoria, filling Centennial Square to the brim on Sunday afternoon. Sparked by the death of George Floyd, massive protests have erupted across North America and worldwide.

“We as a society, especially in Canada, feel that we aren’t racist,” said Vanessa Simon, co-organizer of the Peace Rally for Black Lives.

“Just because you don’t see it in the news doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. There are many examples of micro-aggressions and police brutality.”

More than 4,000 people were expected to show at the event and peaceful protesters were seen atop parking lots, in stairwells and any open patch of grass. Dozens of Black speakers shared their experiences with racism and led the crowds in chants and calls to action.

“People who still have the perspective that ‘All Lives Matter’ aren’t unifying us,” said Simon.

“There’s always going to be people that aren’t happy with our approach, some think we aren’t being aggressive enough. The goal here is to unify first and then begin our calls to action. We’ve got a long way to go and it’s more powerful than having angry black people saying ‘this is what needs to happen’ or ‘we hate police.’”

READ MORE: Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

As an adopted child, Simon grew up in a white home.

She says she not only faced racism within her family, but in school and as a black woman currently. She’s learned to care less about what others think about her and now she’s more concerned about being heard. The occupation of Centennial Square is her best example of that.

When Simon organized the Black Lives Matter protest on Monday, June 1, she expected to be walking on her own. But word spread quick and many attended to march from Centennial Square to Parliament. Now, she’s added two more co-organizers.

“We’re not trying to take this entire movement on by ourselves,” said 23-year-old Asiyah Robinson.

“When the onus is on one person, the dream can die. We’re here as a transparent collective to show that it’s OK to burnout and run out of energy. We will carry this and when you’re ready, we will bring you back in to join the movement.”

ALSO READ: PHOTOS: Thousands gather at Vancouver Art Gallery to protest racism


@iaaronguillen
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aaron.guillen@goldstreamgazette.com

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