Hundreds of protesters in Iqaluit gathered to express their frustration with police brutality and racism on June 5.
The peaceful protest began with Iqalummuit holding signs and chanting in a circle at the downtown, Four Corners intersection around 11:45 a.m. A mosaic of voices from children to adults of various ethnicities chanted for some time in unison, “No justice, no peace! Black lives matter!”
Following the protest’s organizers, members of the public kneeled down and then chanted repetitively, “Take your knee off our necks!”
With every chant the voices grew louder, until eventually they were led to a moment of silence of eight minutes and 46 seconds. As quiet filled the downtown streets of Nunavut’s capital, some protesters lay down, a few stood, while the majority kneeled down.
One of the protest organizers, Murielle Jassinthe, explained the silence was to remember George Floyd and “how it feels to fight for your life for eight minutes and 46 seconds.”
George Floyd, a 46 year-old African-American, was killed in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. He died after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Following the silence, the protesters marched towards the RCMP headquarters. In an orderly and peaceful fashion, protesters, some wearing masks due to Covid-19 and holding signs, slowly walked behind a large banner reading, “Black Lives Matter.”
In attendance were a few members of the city council, MLAs and police officers, including RCMP’s Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones.
Before arriving to the final destination, protester Clayton Greaves stopped in front of the Legislative Building to speak to the leaders of Nunavut.
“Many of us live in fear of speaking out, so we endure. Privately, we are in tears. We are broken and we’re bleeding,” said Greaves.
“We’re calling on each MLA, each leader in this territory to hear the voice of your citizens,” he said.
Protesters then walked across the street to the RCMP headquarters and once again gathered in a circle.
Some kneeled while others stood as various members of the community shared their experiences with racism and expressed their desire for RCMP to end racial profiling. The protesters demanded the RCMP pursue policing reforms that ensure public safety and limits risk of police violence.
Nine-year-old Lesedi Mokoena tearfully spoke about her experiences with racism.
“I’ve been pushed because I am black,” said Mokoena.
An Inuk protester, Jukipa Kuutiq, who spoke up against the police brutality among Inuit communities, was very touched by Mokoena’s speech.
Kuutiq said she knows racism exists in Nunavut. “As an Inuk, it’s my responsibility to ensure that it’s no longer persistent.”
The protest, organized by Nunavut Black History Society along with community members, lasted around one and half hours.
“I’d like to see that momentum that we had here today, that energy, that connection with community … moving forward,” said Kuutiq.