WINDSOR, ONT. -- Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests sparked by the death of George Floyd have grown into a worldwide movement, and those in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are seizing the moment.

As of Thursday evening, there are several events set to go ahead this coming weekend to not only show solidarity for anti-racism demonstrators in the U.S. but, to also highlight systemic racism in Canada.

“The fact that Canada doesn’t talk about our racism is a very scary thing for Black Canadians because we also can’t talk about being Black,” says Sha McAbee in an interview with CTV News, the organizer of the Walk For Regis event in Windsor.

McAbee plans to hold the walk on Saturday at 3 p.m. along Riverside Drive downtown in support of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a young Indigenous-Black woman who died last week after falling from a 24th floor balcony while police were in her home.

According to Korchinski-Paquet’s mother, the police were called to the apartment to take her daughter to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

McAbee, who is also Black, sees the incident as a chilling warning.

“I also have mental health issues and if I were to be put in that position, what would happen to me?”

The walk in Windsor is one of a number of events being held in the region, including events in Belle River and Kingsville, following the Walk For Justice in the city on Sunday. The rally drew hundreds for a march from the foot of Ouellette Avenue to the Ambassador Bridge.

On Friday, the Chatham-Kent Supports Black Lives Matter protest is set to begin at the W.I.S.H Centre in Chatham at 7 p.m.

Co-organizer Connie Piggot Wilson says the event is a chance for Black voices to be heard.

“We’re trying to give people a space in which they can come and express themselves and be heard,” she says.

Piggot Wilson, who is also Black, says while much attention is given to racial tensions in the U.S., there are issues of racism in Canada that have lingered.

“It saddens me because, my experience in Canada, I’ve experienced racism,” says Piggot Wilson. “It’s kind of one of the reasons why I think this is really important because I think a lot of people are unaware of what’s going on in Canada and we’re exposed so much to the American media that we just don’t pay attention to what’s going on here in our own country.”

McAbee says she’s had her own brushes with racism, recalling the first time someone called her the ‘N-word’ in JK.

Now with children of her own, she sees her own daughter suffering in the same way.

“As I’m raising my children, one is visibly Black so, we have very different conversations than all the rest of my kids — I have four,” says McAbee. “My daughter came home in Grade 1 thinking that Black people steal and stuff and I’m like, ‘Where do you get this from?”

In a show of support, Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn issued a statement recognizing the embedded nature of racism in society.

“...we need to recognize the fact that there are deep systemic racial barriers which unfortunately still exist at a societal level, and we must continue to work towards breaking those barriers down until they don’t exist,” says Conn in a news release.

Pandemic protests

All of the organizers behind the different events in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent have urged those attending to wear personal protective equipment like face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In some instances, masks will be provided.

Organizers of the event in Belle River are aiming to limit groups to no more than five people and have those groups maintain the recommended two metres of distance between other groups.

Public health measures, like physical distancing, meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus have scarcely been followed during the string of protests — which has the local medical officer of health concerned.

“As much as you want to show your solidarity, your concern, do it in a safe way,” says Dr. Ahmed.

At the Windsor-Essex County Heath Unit daily pandemic briefing, Ahmed requested protesters to follow applicable health guidelines and “personal responsibility” to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Local BLM Protests

June 5, 7 p.m. — Chatham Supports Black Lives Matter @ The W.I.S.H. Centre, Chatham

June 6, 3 p.m. — Walk For Regis @ Riverside Drive and Ouellette Avenue, Windsor

June 7, 1 p.m. — Peaceful Protest For BLM @ Optimist Park, Belle River

June 7, 1 p.m. — Peaceful Protest For BLM @ Main Street and Division Road, Kingsville

June 7, 3:30 p.m. — BLM Balloon Memorial @ Riverside Drive and Glengarry Avenue, Windsor