On April 17th, Black Lives Matter (BLM) Vancouver held their first rally with hundreds in attendance. The rally was called a visibility and solidarity event and was held at the south side of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Powerful speeches and performances by poets and musicians spoke about experiences of racism and violence. Many speakers said it was very important for Vancouver to recognize its Black communities, and to stand in solidarity with Black communities across Canada. The rally included a strong contingent of Indigenous activists and community members who lent their songs and support. Relating the experience of Black and Indigenous peoples was a clear goal of this first BLM event.
The rally was followed by a community building event on May 7th at Strathcona Park. Strathcona Park is near the old Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood that was displaced in 1972 to extend the highway through Vancouver by building the Georgia Viaduct. These two events mark the start of a Black Lives Matter chapter in Vancouver.
Local organizing was sparked partly by the Black Lives Matter tent city in Toronto. Black activists and supporters held a tent city for 2 weeks outside Police Headquarters to protest the death of Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby. Loku was a 45-year-old man who was shot to death by police outside his home. The police ruled that they used “justifiable force” in his death, even though Loku did not attack the cops or have a gun. Carby was killed by a cop in Brampton, Ontario in 2014 after he was pulled over for having his lights off. The cop said Carby had a knife but when investigators got to the scene, there was no knife. It appeared at the crime scene hours later. Even though evidence was either planted or tampered with, the police officer was let off the hook in Carby’s death just like in the case of Loku’s tragic murder.
Vancouver’s chapter of Black Lives Matter raises awareness of violence and policy brutality against Black people across Canada. It is also part of a larger movement that is changing public consciousness across North America. The Black Lives Matter movement started in the U.S. after the police murders of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Michael Brown in 2014.
Here in British Columbia, we can all act in solidarity with Black community members by speaking up and acting against racism, violence, and policy brutality and supporting the powerful movement of Black Lives Matter.