Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a powerful message Friday, when he took a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence.
He joined a large crowd of anti-racism protesters gathered around the Centennial Flame on the lawn at Parliament Hill Friday.
Trudeau took the knee for the same length of time Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, with his knee, pinned down George Floyd’s neck to the ground while handcuffed.
Floyd said ‘I can’t breathe and pleaded for help, which the four police officers there refused to give him until he became unresponsive and died on May 25.
Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter last week before the charges were raised to second-degree murder on Wednesday.
The other three officers present at Floyd’s arrest – Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane – were also charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting in second-degree murder
Kaepernick Started the Knee Gesture
Former National Football League, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016 to protest racial injustice and violent police treatment of African-Americans. Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret reportedly suggested it to Kaepernick because he thought it was the best alternative to not standing.
But detractors severally accused Kaepernick of showing disrespect for the anthem and the American flag.
Demonstrators have turned to the Kaepernick knee gesture on city streets in America.
Protesters in other cities in Canada have asked police officers to kneel to show respect for black people who have been killed in police custody. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders also took a knee during a protest in that city today.
“I think it’s powerful when you have the head of government taking a knee and clapping when people say ‘black lives matter. It’s incredibly powerful for him to come and be part of this.”Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-Canadian Member of Parliament
Trudeau initially was met with chants of “Stand up to Trump!” and “Go away!” from some in the crowd. The yelling died down as local black leaders started speaking about their calls for an end to racial injustice at home and abroad.
The knee gesture has become a strong symbol of anti-racism. Prominent politicians, law enforcement officers, and members of the National Guard randomly take the knee as an act of solidarity or effort to pacify.
Several Democratic senators knelt during a moment of silence for George Floyd during their caucus meeting on Thursday. The moment lasted for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Following a prayer, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) gave an introduction ahead of the moment of silence, describing Floyd as a Houston native and a high school athlete.
“Today we gather here in solemn reverence to not just mark his tragic death but to give honor to his life,” he said.
“George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. May we honor those dead by protecting all who are alive,” Booker said after the silence.