Protest underway in Calgary to defund police and support Black trans lives

A rally is underway today in southwest Calgary in conjunction with a nationwide effort to defund the police and redistribute those funds into community initiatives.

The rally, which is being 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.”

Thousands of Calgarians took to the streets in June as part of the YYC Justice for All Victims of Police Brutality protest. (Leah Hennel for CBC News)

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.”

Other rallies are also scheduled today in cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Saturday’s rallies came the same week as the latest high-profile police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wis.

Saturday’s Calgary event is also being 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.”

The organizers behind Calgary’s event are asking participants to practice physical distancing, wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.

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