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City officials to support peaceful and properly organized Black Lives Matter protest Saturday
LONDON, ONT. -- It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon at Victoria Park in London Ont.
However, it's expected to look much different Saturday when the Black Lives Matter (BLM) group holds a solidarity protest.
"On Facebook we have over 1000 saying they are going," says co-organizer Djemma Toku.
BLM London is a new start up, and plans to hold its first official rally.
They say systemic racism is worldwide.
"It’s not just in London, it is in neighbouring cities," adds Toku.
"As a black woman I want to be able to see other black friends and family to have equal opportunity as other races when it comes to education and jobs."
However, the rally comes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the provincial order has been extended until June 30.
"We are working collaboratively with the organizers of the march," says Ed Holder, London's mayor.
"It is my expectation and hope as we have seen over the last number of weeks that fines will not be necessary. Those have only ever been put in place to protect the interests of the community."
Chief municipal law enforcement officer Orest Katolyk is encouraging anyone attending the event to follow health precautions and consider staying home if they are experiencing any COVID-19 like symptoms.
"We will work with our community partners to ensure continued awareness about health precautions, as we have throughout our response to the pandemic, and will be on hand to help support a safe event," says Katolyk.
Dr. Chris Mackie, London's chief medical officer of health encourages people to distance, and wear a mask, then quarantine.
"If people are going to attend a place with risk to exposure, my recommendation is to self-isolate after attending that location for ideally two weeks,“ says Mackie.
"If symptoms develop call the health unit right away or get tested 24-48 hours later.
Co-organizer Ayanna Cole says there have been a lot of people who have said they don't want to attend due to COVID-19, and they are taking precautions when it comes to health and safety.
"We have been walking a fine line," says Cole.
"We're providing supplies and getting volunteers to enforce six-feet rules and stay with people you came with.
"We want to make this as safe as possible and not put people's health in jeopardy.
London police officers will be there.
Steve Williams, London’s' chief of police told London's Pure Country morning show Tuesday he supports a right to peacefully protest.
"If it weren’t' for citizens to protest, half the population wouldn't be voting, there would be segregation in schools, and people sitting at the back of the bus," says Williams.
He adds that protests are not a bad thing, and hopes that everyone can get their message across safely.
"We are there to listen, and a lot of our officers are supporting these protests as well."
BLM London has also started a GoFundMe account which they say will be used to provide supplies like masks, sanitizer and signs to those in attendance.
Earlier today it had blown past the intended goal of $5000 and by Tuesday evening had exceeded $12,000.
They hope to become the fourth official BLM charity in Canada.
And if all else fails, and we do have all that excess cash, it will be divided among the three other chapters in the country.
"If all else fails and we do have all that excess cash, it will be divided among the three other chapters in the country," says Toku.
The young women who started organizing this event are blown away by the support.
"It's heartwarming that people in Canada who aren't really involved in this want to get involved in this movement," says Cole.