A peaceful demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter is planned for Friday at noon at city hall.
Protesters plan to march from city hall to Centennial Park, and continue demonstrating there. The march will be the culmination of demonstrations held at 100 and 100 throughout the week, spurred on by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.
The protest is being spearheaded by Amanda Reese Williams, who was born in Prince George, but spent time growing up in both Seattle and Canada. Williams says she became aware of how black people were treated differently than others by the time she was 10.
“I was exposed to more American culture than most Canadian kids growing up. I definitely see the racism in this town. Black people really are treated differently," said Williams, who also acknowledged the racism experienced by indigenous people in Canada. “It’s no different. We’ve lost a lot of indigenous women."
Around 30 people are expected to attend so far, and Williams said news of the protest has already seen some backlash on social media.
“Somebody took it upon themselves to start threatening the members that are planning to go out on Friday,” Williams added. “We’re hoping for the best outcome."
Fort St John RCMP were unaware of the protest until being contacted by media, but have since reached out to Williams to give their approval.
“We have no issue with an organized and peaceful demonstration taking place,” said detachment commander Insp. Tony Hansen.
RCMP will also be present to make sure the protest remains civil. A uniformed unit will keep watch near the demonstrators, and Hansen said additional members will be ready to deploy if needed.
"We wish to ensure the public's ability to participate safely while remaining as unobtrusive as possible," he said.
Protesters have already gathered in small numbers downtown throughout the week, prompted by Adrian McCreath, a firefighter working here from Toronto.
"I just wanted to do something. I'm not really sure if this will mean anything, but momentum is everything and it's important we do what we can to end the cycle of what's been going on."
Mayor Lori Ackerman could not be reached for comment Thursday.
MLA Dan Davies encouraged residents to participate, and urged them to keep the peace and not cause the damage and rioting seen elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.
"I fully support any way that we can raise light of this issue, because it is an issue. Systemic racism is everywhere and it's important we all take an active role in making sure that it doesn't happen," Davies said.
"We have our World Fair coming up where we recognize and embrace the different cultures, different backgrounds of the people in Fort St. John. I like to believe that everyone's wonderful and great, and I think for the most part we are. But racism is out there and it needs to be addressed."
Email reporter Tom Summer at firstname.lastname@example.org