BLM in Aurora, Ontario, Canada
My Dreamwidth posts aren't cross-posting to LiveJournal for some reason, so I'll post here and later get Dreamwidth to sync it.
Racism is a horrible ongoing part of Canada's history. In protest of this, there was a Black Lives Matter march in Aurora today (a nearby town with about 14,000 people). According to my town's e-mail'ed newspaper, they planned to walk up Yonge Street and finish in the Aurora Town Park.
After googling tips from Hong Kong and US protesters, I loaded up the side panniers on my bicycle with towels (both cloth and paper), tissues, bandages, sodium bicarbonate, a USB charger, sunblock, disposable cups, and two 4-litre jugs of distilled water. Unfortunately the heavy load meant I biked slower than usual (plus I got lost), so I missed the start of it. I was worried that I'd miss the dozen or so people that I expected would be marching.
As I frantically pedaled down a side street towards Yonge Street, midway between the march start point and the park, I realized I wouldn't miss it. Both sides of the street were packed with people, all holding signs, wearing masks, and trying to maintain a two-metre distance apart while walking. It looked like at least a tenth of the town had turned out.
I put out my water bottles, cups, sunscreen, and bandages, and offered cups of water to people as they passed by. Only one person took sunscreen for her kid, and less than a dozen people accepted water, but a lot of people thanked me for offering. Next time I'll bring cases of individual-size sealed bottles of water — after all, people don't know me, and can't be sure that I'm pouring clean water into the cups.
Several people on bikes with "First Responder" on them came by, and started asking me about my checkpoint setup. I had to explain that I wasn't one of the organizers, and was just a random guy handing out water, sunscreen, and Band-Aids.
Whenever I thought the march had finished passing, another crowd would show up. When it slowed to a trickle, I loaded up my bike, raced ahead up some side streets, and started offering water to the same marchers.
The crowd politely filed into Aurora Park, carefully spacing themselves in dense groups carefully spaced from each other. There was a bit of wiggling as people tried to clear sight lines to the stage, so everyone could see, and then there were a number of speeches.
I stayed near the entrance to the park offering water, and listened and clapped wth the rest. A kid came by and asked what was going on; I tried to explain the same way Elmo's dad Louie did on Sesame Street.
Several big angry white guys in long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and workboots, but without face masks had been stomping through the crowd, not maintaining a two-metre distance. I thought that their clothing was odd for a hot summer day (for Canadian values of hot — it was about 20 C). Then some uniformed cops (also not wearing face masks) pushed past me, carrying gas canisters, tasers, and guns. They met up with the big angry white guys, chatted, and then both groups stood just behind the speakers on the stage, not maintaining a 2 metre distance from each other. They chatted with some guys wearing reflective safety vests (but no face masks), also not maintaining a two metre distance.
It all ended uneventfully, and the crowd peacefully left the park. A police pickup truck was stopped at an intersection, blocking traffic, but otherwise there was no interference.
When I finished biking home, Sandy had put up a rainbow flag at the entrance of our carport to surprise me.