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‘Fight racism peacefully,’ Black Lives Matter rally participant tells large outdoor audience (Updated, 8 photos)

Local event protesting racism began with a motorcade, attracted at least 500 people

A large Black Lives Matter rally was held Sunday evening in Sault Ste. Marie, inspired by the outrage felt worldwide over the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd died after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while handcuffed and lying face down on the pavement. 

The rally, held outside Algoma University, featured several speakers, including the Sault’s Dave Mornix, a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who came to Canada in 1996.

“There is so much that can be said, but the most powerful words were said by George (Floyd)...‘I can’t breathe!’” Mornix exclaimed.

“I think that you have shown today that you have had enough,” said Mornix, an Algoma University sociology graduate, addressing the audience.

“We have heard from some leaders, but we have heard from them before. And then they went back to their offices, and with the stroke of a pen they forgot what the public said, they forgot what they promised, but I think that this time we will hold their feet to the fire. We have to, and we should not breathe comfortably if we don’t make sure that we do that, because enough is enough,” Mornix said.

“As a black individual in Sault Ste. Marie, I too have experienced racism in all shapes and forms...I have been arrested more times than I can count on one hand,” said Janette Wallace, who worked to organize the local event through Facebook. 

“I was handcuffed, detained and fingerprinted at the Michigan border for over four hours for appearing for a scheduled NEXUS appointment...they couldn’t just dismiss me and ask me to return home.”

“I was racially profiled on campus by campus security a few months ago, who just automatically assumed I was trespassing on the premises, when they could have simply asked me for identification. And the list just goes on,” Wallace said.

As reported earlier by SooToday, Sunday’s rally began with a motorcade at the John Rhodes Community Centre, proceeding to the Roberta Bondar Pavilion where the Black Lives Matter event participants were greeted and joined by more supporters before the group made its way back to Algoma University’s parking lot.

Speakers addressed the audience from a podium and microphone set up outside the university’s student lounge.

Wallace estimated at least 500 people joined the rally.

Participants wore masks due to COVID-19 concerns.

Many stood outside to hear the speakers, while others stayed in their vehicles. 

“We wanted to get together with the community and provide a safe spot and location and also a process for people’s voices to be heard that are in support of Black Lives Matter...we made sure we called the right people in the city and advised them this was going forward,” said Wallace, speaking to SooToday.

Wallace is a native of the Bahamas who has lived in Canada for 11 years, a part-time Algoma University environmental science student who also serves as the Algoma University Students Association (AUSA) manager.

“I’ve experienced it (racism) in terms of racial profiling,” said Yahaya Alphonse, AUSA president.

Alphonse, who has completed his biology degree at Algoma and is currently finishing studies in political science, came to Canada from Nigeria in 2016.

Alphonse closed the 90-minute rally by urging those in the audience to campaign for a peaceful end to racism.

“Thank you for doing it (attending the rally) the right way. Thank you for doing it the peaceful way. Thank you for showing that we can lead by example and that we don’t need violence and we can defeat darkness with love, with light...don’t let them draw the anger and the emotions out of you, try to do things logically, consider everyone, love everyone, love conquers all evil.”