The protesters knelt for eight minutes and 48 seconds, the same length of time a police officer pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck, while other officers stood and watched. Sharisha Benedict, one of the organizers, asked the protesters to kneel for a minute of silence “for everybody that we have lost.”
In an interview with The Coast, Benedict said she hopes the message behind the protest reaches beyond HRM. “We can’t do this alone. We need strength in numbers. We need to be heard and this conversation needs to continue.”
Co-organizer Catherine McNamara-Wright said the peaceful protest was to bring awareness to the unfair treatment that Black people receive. “This has been going on for way too long and it’s time we unify everybody,” she said. Wright said that even though Floyd’s death happened in the United States, it doesn't negate the fact that racism happens in Canada too.
“I’m hoping that people will start to realize that these events are real. Racism is real in all forms and it needs to change,” she said.
The crowd was so large—stretching down Spring Garden Road from at least South Park to Dresden—that speakers at the event had to be creative while passing their messages across. They had protesters echo what they said for people far away to hear.
Activist and SMU student Trayvone Clayton said social media advocacy isn’t enough to make a change. He said he was happy with the number of people who showed up for the protest but urged them to continue to advocate for Black lives after the event. “This is a trending topic, correct? So when this is all over with, next week, if we have something pop up, I don’t wanna see a smaller number than this,” he said.
DeRico Symonds, a program manager with HRM, said he hopes this is the last time protests around racism happen. Symonds called out the leaders of Halifax for not saying anything concerning the recent happenings.
“It would be wise for people who are leading this city to say something,” he said. Symonds added that people need to hold politicians accountable. “When they’re out canvassing in the communities, ask them ‘do you have a Black agenda? Are you going to do something for people of colour? Are you going to do something for Indigenous people?’”
“Do not let the deaths be in vain. Do not go home. Do not do nothing,” he said.
Lynn Jones echoed their messages. She commended the people who came out to rally with the Black community, but said that coming out for the protest was not enough and called for “the real work” to begin after the protest. “You need to figure out where you go from here. You need to figure out how you can make the change that we’re wanting,” Jones said.
A block party celebration of dancing and music followed immediately after the protest.