CORNWALL, Ontario – On Monday, May 25, George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, was killed when police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during the course of his arrest. He was 46-years-old.
Chauvin and two of the other police officers who were on the scene at the time of Floyd’s death were immediately dismissed by their employer and several days later, Chauvin was charged with Third Degree Murder.
Cell phone video of Floyd’s death went viral and sparked protests throughout the United States and similar protests in Europe and Canada as has been seen in Montreal.
One week after Floyd’s death, on June 1 Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement issued a statement about the powerful emotions and reactions that were gripping Cornwall’s neighbours south of the St. Lawrence River.
“I have been watching the Mayors of American cities that are in the throes of protests. They call for calm and for peace, but not for patience; they understand that their communities have reached their breaking point and there must be change,” Mayor Clement wrote in a post on social media.
In an interview with Seaway News Mayor Clement said that empathy for others and inviting experiences with different communities within the greater community of Cornwall is the best way to foster peace and understanding.
“It is about including people in our personal lives,” Clement said. “This is a call to action in terms of friendships. I believe that there is enough room at the table for everybody. When I have friendships in other communities, it helps me better understand their struggles.”
Clement also reflected on her experience as a black woman, travelling to the United States as a young woman.
“Every summer, my parents would load us into their station wagon and we would take long road trips,” Clement wrote, going on to describe trips throughout Canada. “We also often visited the U.S., but those trips were far less casual. They came with parental warnings of needing to be extra careful at all times because there could be many people who would not take kindly to families that looked like us.”
Clement praised the Cornwall Police Service (CPS) for their work to support all of the communities of Cornwall, pointing to CPS Chief Danny Aikman attending a memorial at the Jamia Masjid Al-Aqsa Mosque in March 2019 in remembrance of the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, as an example.
“Those are the types of things that encourage me here,” Clement said.
Chief Danny Aikman tweeted out his support for the Mayor’s message on Monday.
Racism in policing has never been right, period! Intolerance of our fellow human beings is a sad and disturbing way to exist. @BernadetteClem asks us to share our lives as friends and community. I agree 100%! #PeacefulProtests #loveislove pic.twitter.com/lLte13oXbg
— Danny Aikman (@ChiefAikman) June 1, 2020
“As the Mayor of Cornwall, I am grateful for the peace in our city, but I am also aware that there is much more to be done to ensure that everyone here gets to participate fully in our community,” wrote Clement in her social media post. “My ask of this community is that we keep pursuing inclusion and diversity, not only in our workplaces, but also in our friendships. When we share our lives together as friends, we truly listen to the perspectives of others. When people are our friends and part of our lives, it becomes impossible to ignore their pain and their experiences. When we can listen to each other from a place of love and not from a place of defense, this is where we truly come together.”