Black and Indigenous-led event holds space at the Legislature, displacing fringe groups
On July 1, the legislature lawn normally used for a Canada Day concert was instead filled with a Black and Indigenous-led celebration called Resist Canada 153. The celebration sought to pay tribute to the ongoing resistance against the Canadian state and its ongoing legacy of colonialism and white supremacy.
At its peak, over 350 people gathered on the legislative grounds. At various points throughout the day, the group was provoked by a far-right and anti-mask protest on the other side of the lawn.
Organizer Kati George-Jim, who is Indigenous and hails from the T’Sou-ke and W̱SIḴEM (Tseycum) territories, said that Resist Canada 153 was created “to celebrate Black and Indigenous relationship and our solidarity and our resistance against the attempt to exterminate who we are as human beings.”
“Canada was founded by white supremacy,” an Indigenous speaker said. “They stole Black people, they killed Indians, and they enslaved Chinese people. The social hierarchy of white supremacy and its inertia is still present today, and it’s on the other side of this field.”
While they spoke, the far-right protests jeeringly sang the Canadian anthem in an attempt to heckle and drown out Indigenous voices.
Throughout the day, Resist Canada featured stories, dances, poetry, and songs from Black and Indigenous artists and speakers.The event was also co-organized with Black activists Asiyah Robinson and Vanessa Simon, who previously organized the largest Black Lives Matter protest in Victoria.
Asiyah Robinson says that it is important for Black and Indigenous communities to show love to each other and not sit within the trauma and violence that often defines them, but instead celebrate unity and culture as a community.
Black and Indigenous communities coming together is not a new thing, says Robinson, adding that “it’s something that we definitely want to continue.”
“When we were fighting for our rights to do ceremony [in the U.S.], the Black Panther party actually got involved and kept a lot of us hidden in spaces while we could travel to go to places to do our ceremonies,” said Serena Baker, who was there to support her niece, George-Jim.
Same lawn, different cause: an anti-mask far-right protest nearby raises their concerns
Meanwhile, on the other side of the lawn, a smaller group gathered for a completely different purpose — to protest against masks.
Those involved in this protest were a mixed coalition of anti-vaccine, anti-mask, and pro-Wexit groups, with some coming from as far as Abbotsford.
The Martlet spoke to Sam Kolfat, one of the people in this group. Kolfat is against 5G, radiation, chemotherapy, and vegetable oil. He also spoke about advocating for an independent British Columbia.
The far-right protests set up multiple tents, and proceeded to disobey physical distancing and mask-wearing guidelines set by the province. Although they were in a different area of the legislature lawn, the group complained to the Resist Canada 153 organizers and attempted to push them out.
“Individual members had a lot of problems with us gathering,”said George-Jim “[they said we are] taking their stage.”
“They’re putting not only each other at risk but vulnerable communities like Indigenous and Black families that already are at such a high risk because of our systemic discrimination.”
Multiple altercations witnessed
The Martlet witnessed multiple altercations throughout the day as everyone tried to have their voices heard. Individuals not associated with Resist Canada 153 repeatedly harassed, intimidated, and verbally abused attendees throughout the event.
Mo Blake attended the Resist Canada 153 event. He saw what he called “counter-protestors” chasing a person of color across the lawn in a threatening way. He quickly put his body in between George-Jim and a group of angered men that tried to verbally and physically intimidate the organizer.
“I’m here to listen. I’m a white guy who needs to listen more,” said Mo Blake. Blake came to the legislature to support and listen to Black and Indigenous voices but instead found them being shouted over by other groups.
Legislature Security was often uninvolved. One supporter of the Resist Canada event was asked to leave after allegedly throwing a megaphone into the fountain.
At one point, a speaker from the group began screaming obscenities and threatening “BLM and Antifa supporters” through a PA system while Gitxsan land defender Kolin Sutherland-Wilson spoke about Indigenous issues at Resist Canada 153. Sutherland-Wilson continued onwards, undeterred.
“[They are] not even respecting the purpose [of our event] but not respecting our bodies and not respecting our families … they needed to walk away,” said George-Jim.
The opposing group eventually left around 5:30p.m., and Resist Canada 153 attendees were able to enjoy some food in peace and community. Standing before a crowd of hundreds, George-Jim once again affirmed the purpose of the gathering to cheers and applause.
“We’re not celebrating unity and freedom and rights under the Canadian state — We’re celebrating our collective relationship and resistance as Black and Indigenous people and those that stand in solidarity with that idea.”