Hundreds attended a demonstration in Calgary today in conjunction with a nationwide effort to defund the police and redistribute those funds into community initiatives.
The rally, which was organized by the Defund YYC group and the Black Lives Matter chapter in Calgary, began at 1 p.m. at Sien Lok Park in southwest Calgary before demonstrators marched to city hall for a rally that started at 2:30 p.m.
LJ Joseph, vice-president of Calgary’s Black Lives Matter chapter, said Defund YYC had partnered with Black Trans Lives Matter, which had already planned to hold a rally Saturday before the nationwide protests were scheduled.
“First, we want people to rally behind Black trans lives, because they matter,” Joseph said. “And then, obviously, the police sometimes aren’t keeping them safe, and that’s why it’s important for them to have this defund movement behind them.”
Defunding the police, Joseph said, means redistributing funds from policing into underfunded social programs. Calgary’s police budget is funded by more than $400 million each year.
“I understand that people are thinking, well, if you take money away from police, there will be less police and more crime,” Joseph said. “But if you take police off of certain programs and put them back on patrol, you don’t need more cops. We’re not asking for you to dismantle the police.”
The City of Calgary is set to meet with the Calgary Police Service on Sept. 10 to discuss how to address systemic racism.
Other rallies were scheduled today in cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Saturday’s rallies came the same week as the killing of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot by police in the back seven times as he attempted to enter his vehicle in Kenosha, Wis.
Saturday’s Calgary event was also held with the support of Idle No More and the Land Back movement.
“Land Back is an integral movement with the aim to end colonialism which supports anti-Blackness and oppression,” organizers said in a release.
“The defund the police movement aims to reorganize society to support humanity rather than simply interrupt crime caused by the lack of community support.”
Partway through the march, protesters took a knee and raised a fist in solidarity.
The organizers behind Calgary’s event asked participants to practice physical distancing, wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.