Hundreds of people gather at Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna

Black Lives Matter protest in Kelowna - Michael Rodriguez, Kelowna Capital News

Hundreds of people are gathering in Stuart Park for a rally in support of the black community in Kelowna.

Organized by two black women Paige Harrison and Kermisha Pereira, the rally is meant to be peaceful and bring light to the ongoing protests in the U.S.

The protests started last week after an unarmed black man, George Floyd, died in Minnesota police custody. Some protests have turned into violent riots.

Harrison and Pereira emphasized Friday’s event is a peaceful protest and all they want is to give people a chance to have an open conversation about people of colour’s experiences.

Harrison took to the mic at the beginning of the rally to thank residents for attending.

“I really appreciate all the support. I know there was a little bit of controversy (earlier), but I’m so glad that we stuck with the root of this peaceful protest, and that is to unite and not to divide,” she said.

The “controversy” she was speaking about was the displeasure of some local black and Indigenous groups in Kelowna who said they do not support the event.

Hearth, an association of black and Indigenous women, posted they didn’t support the rally because “it was founded without the consultation, consent, or leadership of the larger black community in the Okanagan and also the First Nations who govern these territories.”

Despite the backlash, Pereira and Harrison said they were very grateful for the support and the turnout.

“I couldn’t ask for a better turnout. We had a few people this morning trying to sabotage us, but this (turnout) is amazing. I honestly cannot find the words,” Pereira said.

“This is more than us. This is more than a protest. This is changing people’s lives.”

They said they can’t give specifics as to what triggered the backlash.

“It could be a couple of reasons, but we don’t want to insinuate anything… the only thing I can say, and speaking on behalf of Kermisha, is that we really wish that they were all here and supporting,” Harrison said.

“They would’ve been a part of it just as much as anybody else would’ve been.”

While many of those who are gathered in Stuart Park are wearing masks, the recommended six-feet of social distancing, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, is not being adhered to by all due to the number of people in the area.

READ MORE: Community backlash over Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna

READ MORE: ‘It’s in the looks people give’: Kelowna women use shared experiences to combat racism

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