Montreal’s West Island communities rally against racism, police brutality

Hundreds of people gathered at Pierrefonds Community High School on Saturday for a peaceful rally against racism and discrimination.

The Montreal Youth Stars Foundation organized the event in the West Island to give the community a chance to speak out.

“We felt it was important for their voices to be heard here in the west,” said Malik Shaheed, founder of Montreal Youth Stars.

Nathaniel Sanders, who is a student at Pierrefonds high school, said his classmates don’t understand how it feels to be called racial slurs.

Sanders said he wants the school to do more when dealing with racist acts.

“When it comes to the Black student body, it makes us not only angry but it makes us sad, it makes us feel voiceless and helpless and the administration doesn’t do anything to help it,” Sanders said.

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Emotions continue to run high months after the death of George Floyd, who died after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25.

West Islander Maycie-Ann St. Louis said these problems are the reason why rallies and protests are necessary.

“It’s a golden opportunity to show what’s going on behind closed doors,” St. Louis said. “As unfortunate and as horrific as these events are, it gives an opportunity to speak about it and have these events that will pinpoint and dictate and show that these are issues.”

READ MORE: Black Montreal high school graduate speaks out about racist text in yearbook

The Youth Stars Foundation is a Montreal-run, non-profit organization that serves a diversely linguistic and cultural youth population. The foundation uses the arts, sports, dance and music to motivate youth and support healthy living habits and teamwork.

The West Island has seen racist incidents in recent weeks.

Last month, a video circulated widely shows two teenage girls from John Rennie High School donning blackface, singing and dancing as they mouth a string of racial insults and slurs; a Lindsay Place High School graduate appeared in his high school yearbook alongside the phrase “most likely to become a criminal”; and racial slurs were found written on a dumpster in Pointe-Claire.

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“A lot of stuff happens downtown, but it’s also needed in the West Island, we saw what happened in … Lindsay Place High School, John Rennie High School, so we understand there is an issue and we need to deal with that issue,” Shaheed said.

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Many West Islanders agree that makes those racist acts make rallies like the one held on Saturday more necessary.

“I have been living in the West Island my whole life and I have always had to go downtown to be part of rallies and protest,” West Island resident Zarya Senior told Global News. “It makes me feel better that our city is waking up and paying attention.”

Fellow West Island resident Alisha Rice added: “I think its finally we need a change — it’s not OK what’s happening. I’m going into law school so I hope to make a difference for the Black community.”

A small crowd in the small town of Baie D’urfe also gathered to discuss and denounce racism and discrimination, and have an open conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The organizers of the event say not enough members in the community were talking about the event.

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They wanted to effect change within the Baie D’urfe community by opening their eyes to the reality of challenges that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) face on a daily basis.

When organizers asked protesters to share their point of view, Samara O’Gorman, who said she’s witnessed her peers be racially profiled, could not say no.

“I had so many people of color growing up in my neighborhood, really, really close friends and I saw it first hand, them dealing with racial injustice in my community, and since they were very close to me, I just feel like it wasn’t right and I feel like we can do better as a country,” O’Gorman told Global News.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.