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Black Lives Matter movement comes to Bolton through peaceful protest

June 18, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Written By ALYSSA PARKHILL

I can’t breathe.

Those three words have sparked feelings of anger, passion and dedication worldwide. 

46-year-old George Floyd uttered those words on May 25, when a Minneapolis police officer held his knee to his neck during Floyd’s arrest after a convenience store employee called 911, alleging Floyd tried to pay for his groceries with a counterfeit $20 bill. Four officers arrived, with one, Derek Chauvin, ultimately pinning Floyd to the ground, and killing him. 

Videos and photos were brought forward displaying the details of the scene. 

A day after the crime, the four Minneapolis police officers were fired from jobs, with Chauvin charged with second-degree murder, and the other three charged with aiding and abeting second-degree murder. 

Since that day, protests of all manners have erupted worldwide. Now, one Caledon couple felt it was time to bring the movement to Caledon.

Keirstin Sephrenia and her husband Ryan, both long time Caledon residents, organized to stand on the side of Highway 50 on June 7, to spread awareness of Black Lives Matter in the Caledon community. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, they carefully planned to keep everyone safe by maintaining a two-metre distance between one another while peacefully protesting. 

“We knew about the protests happening in Toronto and Barrie, and the one even happening in Brampton – there was so many people,” Keirstin explained. “But we didn’t see anything happening here, right at home.”

Sephrenia began sharing her plans by word of mouth to friends and those around them and when she started posting on social media, news began to spread like wildfire. 

They began standing in solidarity on back on June 6, with a handful of the community joining. As more dates began to form, and social media posts were shared online, the numbers of residents continued to grow. However, not all residents have been supportive of the local movement.  

“It’s been mostly amazing, and it’s really heartwarming to see. So many people driving by, and they’re honking. But we’ve had a couple not so great responses. A couple of people having been screaming obscenities and displaying vulgar hand gestures. But, it’s going to happen,” Sephrenia said. “But it is heartwarming to see the majority of responses have been really, really good.” 

Sephrenia grew up in Caledon and has lived here since 2003. Having experienced firsthand what discrimination looks and feels like, there has been a motivation deep within Keirstin to spread awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement and to make her voice heard. 

“Having grown up here, I’ve gone through not wanting to go to school, being scared to go to school. I work in town as well and I’ve had my fair share of people who don’t want me to serve them. They wait for somebody else to serve them,” she explained. “The fact that it’s happened for so long, and still happens, we need to have these conversations, and everybody needs to realize that I live here. This is my home.”

She added, “I think it’s really important for people to see that I want to feel safe, and other people of colour that live here. We want to feel safe.” 

The Caledon couple are standing with residents of different ages, races and genders. But one older generation couple struck a nerve with Sephrenia.

“There was a couple that came, and (the husband) had been living here for a really long time. He was talking about being here, back in the eighties, and what people would say to him, to his face back in the eighties. He was so grateful that he could come and not feel afraid to come stand outside because we’re all here,” said Sephrenia. “We’ve all been too afraid to have these conversations for so long, because you don’t know who’s standing with you. Now there’s so many of us together, we’re kind of giving each other the push to do this.” 

Sephrenia posts on her personal Instagram page, @Kierstin.Sephrenia, to inform and spread the word of when they will be standing in solidarity on Highway 50, outside the Dollarama parking lot. They provide signs and water for those who stand with them and encourage the community to come together as one. 



         

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