Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday joined thousands of protesters in taking a knee in front of parliament in solidarity with US protesters marching against racism and police brutality.
It marked a rare public outing for the Canadian leader since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as protests spread outside the United States after police in Minnesota killed an unarmed black man.
During a daily briefing, Trudeau said, “Far too many Canadians feel fear and anxiety at the sight of law enforcement officers”.
“Over the past weeks, we’ve seen a large number of Canadians suddenly awaken to the fact that the discrimination that is a lived reality for far too many of our fellow citizens is something that needs to end”, the Prime Minister added.
Trudeau, holding a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt, chanted from behind a mask along with the crowd that extended several blocks to the US embassy, and later stood in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Death of 46-year-old African-American man George Floyd who was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit banknote on May 25 has sparked protests across major cities in the US.
A Minneapolis policeman accused of killing unarmed Floyd by kneeling on his neck was taken into custody on Friday and charged with third-degree murder. Three other officers with him have been fired but for now face no charges.
Similar protests took place in cities across Canada.
In Toronto, Police Chief Mark Saunders and several uniformed officers met protesters marching through downtown, and also took a knee.
Taking to Twitter, he tweeted, “We see you and we are listening”.
Ottawa protester Stephane Kribodo said there was too much racism — “in the world, in France, in the United States, in Canada.”
“It’s important to stand up against it if we want change,” he said.
On Tuesday, Trudeau appeared at a loss for words, pausing for 20 seconds when pressed for his thoughts on US President Donald Trump’s threat of military mobilization against violent protests.
“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States,” he said finally.
About 10,000 people have expressed interest in attending the rally on Saturday in the city centre in solidarity with US protesters and to express anger about indigenous deaths in Australian custody.
Police in Melbourne have urged people not to attend a planned protest there, pleading with organisers to cancel the event and threatening to issue fines. However, in Brisbane and Adelaide, protests have received police approval.
A video taken by a bystander shows officer officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck as he is pinned to the ground. Floyd who was unarmed and handcuffed, pleaded that he could not breathe. He was soon after declared dead at a nearby hospital.
Earlier, Trump blamed the extreme left for the violence and said that rioters were dishonoring the memory of Floyd.
Trump reiterated on Friday that authorities need to “dominate the streets,” and criticized governors in states that had rejected sending in the National Guard during protests and rioting.
The United States also faced unusual, if polite, criticism from some international allies including Germany, Britain and Australia.