Demonstrators, in the second march in as many days in Saskatoon, professed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
They also called for the Saskatoon police to be defunded, disarmed and abolished.
“It’s time the police had a shake-up and it’s time the mayor and council had a shake-up,” said organizer Eileen Bear of the Saskatoon Coordinating Committee Against Police Violence.
The march is the fourth in the city in recent weeks designed to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The rallies over the weekend were organized by different people and had vastly different turnouts.
One thousand people took part in the march on Saturday and just 30 people attended the Sunday rally, which was specifically aimed at calling for the Saskatoon police to be defunded.
Organizers were asking participants to write to their city councillors to ask them to never again vote to increase the police budget, to cut $43 million from the 2020 police budget to make up for the projected shortfall in city finances and to prioritize the expansion of community health initiatives.
“Instead of investing in the police,” a sample letter on the event’s Facebook page read, “our city must prioritize alternatives like education, increased mental health services (and) housing initiatives,” among other things.
The Saskatoon city council voted to increase the police budget to $110.4 million in November’s budget deliberations.
The $828,000 increase was prompted by a record number of homicides in Saskatoon in 2019 and by Chief Troy Cooper’s request for an increased staff, including more officers to patrol the area around the forthcoming supervised consumption site on 20th Street West.
Bear told Global News there are better ways to spend public money.
“All that money that Mayor Charlie Clark gave (the police)… could have opened up youth centres, (it) could have opened up things that we need in the community.”
She said Clark, Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau need to be replaced because solutions don’t come from people who are comfortable.
She said Moe needs to get involved with the local community so that he can understand what is needed.
“How many days has he spent without food? How many nights has he slept in the park?”
The rally began around 12:30 p.m. in Pleasant Hill Park, with speeches from organizers, and then marched to City Hall and the Saskatoon Police Headquarters.
But before it could begin, demonstrators and several people who did not agree that the police should be defunded were yelling at each other.
One man was yelling that Adolf Hitler, who converted Germany into a fascist state, empowered his Nazi party to take over every German state government and who employed his own paramilitary forces to ensure brutal compliance, defunded the police.
One woman, who is white, said she was never stopped by police because she abides by the law.
Sonny Caron, a Metis man, responded by saying “you don’t live with that problem, that’s why you don’t understand.”
“I (was) pulled over and I had five police cars harassing me the other day with no witnesses,” he told reporters afterwards.
“It’s sad that we have to go to court and fight to have the civil right (to) drive down the street. That’s what I was trying to explain to the lady.”
Caron said he didn’t want the police to be abolished, only reformed.
“Right now, the police are holding themselves accountable and it’s not working. There are too many people being abused and we’re tired of it.”
With files from the Associated Press.
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