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Kahnawake joins anti-racism protest

(Courtesy Brooklyn Joseph)

The gruesome murder of George Floyd was recorded on video and it quickly went viral on social media and was played over and over on the news.

The image of his violent death will stay in our memories forever, and has also led to global civic engagement against injustice; a fight to put an end to systemic racism, and even a call to defund and disband the police.

Crowds continue to gather in the streets in uncontrollable numbers and demonstrations are spreading beyond cities into rural and suburban areas.

Approximately 300 people, including Kahnawa’kehró:non, gathered along Boulevard d’Anjou at the St. Joseph intersection in Chateauguay last Saturday, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The protestors were a diverse group with people of all ages. At the frontline was a crowd of young people; some as young as 12 or 13 years old that seemed to be leading the demonstration. They were holding signs, marching across the street and saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” a reference to Floyd’s final words.

At some point, demonstrators laid down on the ground for precisely eight minutes and 46 seconds, the exact amount of time police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. This gesture symbolized Floyd’s final moments.

“Social media recorded the whole thing. Everyone saw how the man was begging for his life and to be honest, black people are tired of going through all these things for 400-plus years. We’re just tired of it – we’ve had enough,” said Juwan Holliday, a young protestor.

A few police officers were present as well. Officer Natalie Langevin said, “It’s really great. It’s a peaceful manifestation and we are all behind this organization so the police of Chateauguay are really glad to be here with these people – it’s important to do things like that.”

Officials were concerned that the protests would lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases, but most people at the rally respected the safety measures and recommendations.

Several community members were in attendance. The Mohawk Warrior flag and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy flag could be seen waving high behind the line of protestors.

The protest went from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Derek Delaronde stayed holding his flag up for four hours.

“I think it’s a pretty big, epic thing that’s happening and I like what’s coming of it,” Delaronde said. “I’m very optimistic that things will change.”

Another protestor, Onowakohton Rusty Nolan, said that he thinks “it’s beautiful that we are coming together in unity and solidarity for our friends and neighbours that live, work, shop in Chateauguay – we always stood up for each other.”

Nolan also explained that community members were present to help keep the protest peaceful. “We are in support, we are causing a presence with the Warrior people to prevent any violence and show them ‘hey look, Kahnawake is here.’ I hope that helps keep it peaceful.”

People continue to come together to show their outrage at this pattern of prejudice and racism. The evidence of police brutality has become too “real” to be ignored any longer, many expressed.

“It’s a snowball effect. They do it to one, they do it to another and people get angrier and angrier and finally they speak up and nothing works,” Nolan said.

“Finally, it’s a boiling point where they see another black guy get murdered on the street, the guy (the police officer who killed George Floyd) is smirking, and it angered a lot of people. People are saying something is wrong, we need to fix this now. I think racism is going to die.”

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