South Peace News
A small number of local protestors were joined by protestors from across the province Jan. 23 to make a statement against racism and to ask for accountability from Grimshaw Mayor Bob Regal.
We are here because we were sent a photo of a man, broad daylight, year 2021, with a KKK hood at the post office,” says Taylor McNallie, co-founder of Inclusive Canada.
“At first, of course, the mayor’s response lacked a lot,” McNallie says.
“Rather than condemn white supremacy and what had happened and the actions that this individual had done, he would rather just claim that his town is not racist So right there we were a little ticked off.”
Matters worsened for some.
“But then we started getting messages from locals,” says McNallie. “We got a message from one family with a racialized individual in their family and they’re scared to leave their home.
“So we decided we need to come up here because RCMP are not doing anything, the mayor is not doing anything, and obviously members of the town are not doing anything.”
She says she knows first-hand how scary and intimidating it can feel being a racialized individual and just being in the fight alone.
“I grew up in a town of 400 people, much smaller than Grimshaw. I was the only black person in that town so I know how that feels. As a child I tried to take my own life due to bullying, due to racism, and hearing another child going through that is not OK with me.”
McNallie drove eight hours from Calgary to be in Grimshaw along with members of multiple other groups who are part of the Alberta Humanitarian Initiative, a collective of grassroots community leaders and local organizations who “champion freedom, liberation, justice, and equity for all people.” The umbrella group includes Inclusive Canada, Black and Indigenous Alliance, Red Deer Against Racism [RDAR] ), A Fight for Equity, Lloydminster and Vermilion for Equity, Water Warriors YEG, Indigenous People’s for Equality, The Community, and Be the Change Drumheller.
“Hate is not welcome here, racism is not welcome here, and those supporting it or thinking it’s funny or unimportant should feel ashamed,” the coalition’s official statement to media says.
The group put up signs and posters at the Town of Grimshaw sign, the post office, and on billboards and poles around town. Protestors also cheered and waved signs at passing traffic.
While some people passing by honked and cheered back in support, others were not as supportive.
“We were at the post office for 20 minutes and the woman who works here came and tore all our signs down,” McNallie says.
The police were also called with a complaint that the protest was blocking the post office door. The only interaction at the door happened when a woman tapped McNallie on the shoulder from behind and McNallie immediately apologized and moved. When police arrived, they asked protestors to ensure they were wearing masks and not to block the post office.
McNallie asked what was happening with the man in the hood, and police confirmed he is being investigated. They left shortly after.
“Of course they all say the same thing. Freedom of speech, you didn’t do anything wrong. I have posted the Criminal Code that goes against this individual’s actions up on these walls,” McNallie says.
“When we see things like this, or nooses being found around Alberta, or people yelling at our city halls, ‘Hail Hitler!’, this is how accelerationism happens, and this is how we end up like the US ended up where they stormed the Capitol.”
Another local businesswoman told the group they were embarrassing her.
McNallie has already faced many personal threats for her activism and educational work.
“I have been told I am going to be found hanging in a tree if I keep going out,” McNallie says.
“We’ve been threatened that we’re going to get shot at, ran over. It’s just another day for us,” she adds.
To those who say the KKK-style hood is “just a joke,” McNallie says, “Stop upholding white supremacy. It is not a joke. We do not find this funny.
“People need to take this seriously,” she adds. “Otherwise, we are going to see that accelerationism happen. You’re never going to have new and wonderful people come to this town and it’s just going to be that weird echo chamber. We all need to move forward and create an equitable society where everyone feels welcome.”
She says Alberta is behind and needs to move forward. To do that, McNallie says, people in Grimshaw should write Regal and ask for a more definitive statement against white supremacy, speak out against racism, and make sure racialized and marginal- ized members in town feel safe and supported.
The group was also able to start connecting a local woman whose husband has been facing severe discrimination at work for being indigenous with potential legal help.
“At this point, if this is how it’s going to be we will be here every single weekend until action is taken,” McNallie says.
“It’s important because if we don’t come out here and do this, things just get continuously swept under the rug.”