By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa residents came together to rally against systemic racism at the #BlackLivesMatter Memorial Rally and Protest.
The rally was held recently at Memorial Park, and was organized by former NDP federal candidate Shailene Panylo.
Panylo tells The Oshawa Express she got involved with the rally when “the organizing community” asked if she would be interested in running a “peaceful demonstration.”
“As my name is at times more identifiable in the community, the feeling is this will reassure the community of the legitimacy of the event,” she says. “I felt it important to create this space for protest and remembrance.”
The rally was called in response to the killing of George Floyd in the United States.
Video was released showing Floyd on the ground with a police officer putting pressure on his neck. Floyd can be heard in the video saying, “I can’t breathe.”
Reports have indicated Floyd did not resist arrest, but unlawful force was used, resulting in the arrest and charges laid against all officers at the scene.
Police were arresting Floyd due to his use of a fraudulent bill.
The Oshawa rally saw hundreds gather in the park, carrying signs which read, “Defund the police,” and “Respect black lives like you respect black culture.”
Panylo, who grew up in Oshawa, says as a black woman she has experienced bullying and racism throughout her life.
“Verbal, emotional, and physical abuse was a significant part of my elementary experience and environment,” she says. “Being adopted by a non-black family put everyone in my home in a position of not knowing exactly how to handle the situation and address the racism.”
She explains it took “outside forces” to bring about the necessary action in her school when she was a child.
“Even then it was the bare minimum help with a resulting, ‘We are sorry,’” she explains. “When you experience this injustice, you want to become an advocate for the youth that, unfortunately, are still experiencing the same issues all these years later.”
Panylo explains for Canada and Oshawa to do better, all forms of government first need to acknowledge the “deeply rooted systemic racism” still found in Canada today.
“Then, there needs to be a way to keep governments accountable,” she says. “For example, we have a Landlord and Tenant Board for resolving housing issues, and their decisions are absolute.”
She believes something akin to the Landlord and Tenant Board that is human rights based will help to make sure governments follow through with promised funding and action.
“It would function as an independent, non-partisan body with the power to implement resolutions to ensure accountability and action for meaningful change,” she says.
Panylo says Oshawa is “rooted in activism and peaceful protest,” so she wasn’t concerned there would be any violence at the rally.
She explains anyone who attempted to disrupt the peaceful protest was asked to leave.
“I know Oshawa and our allies will not condone their behaviour,” she says.
– With files from Randy Nickerson