Warning: The video below contains coarse language.
A tense situation ended peacefully Wednesday after a group of demonstrators descended on OPP General Headquarters in Orillia to show solidarity with protesters in the United States following the death of George Floyd.
Angered by the Black man’s death in Minneapolis, Minn., which has resulted in one officer being charged with second-degree murder and three others with aiding and abetting, about 17 people set up in front of the OPP building on Memorial Avenue, holding signs that read, “Justice for George” and “Orillia in solidarity.”
Orillia’s Daniel Tucker was the only Black person present, and he made sure his voice was heard.
“One of my siblings was murdered. Cold blood,” he said through a loudspeaker, referring to Floyd. “They knelt on his neck for eight or nine minutes, give or take. Not cool. That’s the reality we face.”
Demonstrators wanted police to come out, talk to them and kneel with them. Sgt. Kerry Schmidt briefly did so before saying he had to head inside for meetings, but it meant little to Tucker, who said, “I’m surprised he’s not kneeling on my neck right now.”
“All over the States, cops are kneeling. Ten minutes later, they’ll authorize tear gas,” he said.
Tucker shared with the crowd the fear he faces daily.
“God, it’s scary being Black in Orillia,” he said, urging those demonstrating with him to be true allies. “I see you guys are trying your best to be allies, but I really need your sympathy right now.”
Despite that fear, he and a few others soon decided to march up to the front of headquarters, where he was met by Randy Peacock, an officer who works out of the building, and Special Const. Karla Rolston. Peacock asked them to return to the area near the roadway, saying the roundabout laneway was private property.
“You gonna shoot me?” Tucker asked Peacock. “Six warning shots in my back? Is that how this is gonna go?”
Tucker then knelt on one knee and told Peacock to do the same.
“Unfortunately, we can’t take sides in anything,” Peacock said.
Rolston was not offering her opinion on the situation, either, other than saying, “Everybody’s life matters.”
“‘All lives matter’ doesn’t work when you’re not acknowledging that Black lives matter as well,” responded Tara Langille, one of the organizers of the demonstration.
She said she was “really disappointed with the police” for not “standing in solidarity” with the group.
Fellow organizer Alexandria Shennett was hoping more people would attend, but she was thankful for those who showed up.
“It reminds people in this town that we have your back and we’re going to be there no matter what,” she said.
Like Langille, Aleesha Gostkowski wanted to see police join them in the demonstration.
“We want to believe we can stand with our police and stand against racism. This is something that means a lot to me and means a lot to many people,” she said. “This is something I need to take part in as a white person. The best thing we can do is be an ally. It’s important for us in a small town to stand up for what’s right. Silence is standing with the oppressor.”