A small group of protestors line up along the highway in front of the Vernon courthouse to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

‘Racism is real,’ says Vernon Black Lives Matter protester

Handful of demonstrators take to court steps in solidarity with BLM movement

Around 10 protesters lined up beside the highway in front of the courthouse at noon on Wednesday, garnering honks of support from passing vehicles.

Among them was Sarah Gabriel.

As a black woman, she said greater awareness of racism is needed in the local area.

“For me, racism is real. It’s happened to me many times,” she said, holding a sign that read “I am a child of God, let me breathe.”

“It’s not just to black people,” she added. “I have many friends and they go through the same thing.”

Gabriel said what’s lacking in the local area is an awareness of the subtler acts of racism, committed unconsciously.

“People can be racist without knowing it, so it’s good to have awareness so people know that the little things they say or do, it’s still racism, and it’s time for this to stop.”

Ilona Davidson said she organized the June 10 rally because she couldn’t stay silent anymore.

“I just felt I had to do something,” the 25-year-old said.

As a person with Indigenous heritage, Davidson said racism exists in Canada and can no longer be ignored.

“Race crimes happen everywhere,” she said. “It’s not just the U.S.”

“I feel now, more than ever, we need to come together instead of falling apart,” she said.

Last week, around 15 protesters took their raised fists and signs to Polson Park Friday, June 5, at 3 p.m.

Organized by teens Celina Galbraith, 18, and Zada Varney, 17, protesters chanted, “I can’t breathe,” as cars honked their horns in support along Highway 97.

The duo isn’t a part of any organization, rather the issue seen across headlines and social media pushed them to take up the cause on a local level.

“Canada is not superior,” Varney said, in comparison to the United States.

“Police brutality is still a thing,” Galbraith said.

Varney and Galbraith, both Caucasian, said it is important to stand and show support for all.

“We as ‘white people’ will never understand what it’s like,” Varney said. “But waking up every day thinking this could be your last simply because of your colour in a society that doesn’t accept you is not OK.”

In response to a passing motorist shouting “All lives matter!” the young activists said: “Not all lives matter until black lives matter.”

The same day, nearly 600 people rallied in Stuart Park in Kelowna.

Black Lives Matter protests have taken place in Salmon Arm, Revelstoke, Kamloops and Vancouver.

READ MORE: Vernon protesters take BLM movement to Polson Park

READ MORE: ‘I just felt I had to do something’: Vernon Black Lives Matter protest organizer


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