Socialist Action joined over a thousand Black students and their allies in a long March for Justice in Peel Region, forty minutes north-west of Toronto, on Wednesday, June 17. The demonstration, which began at the Brampton Courthouse and ended with a rally at the school board parking lot in Mississauga, protested rampant anti-Black racism at the Peel District School Board (PDSB), as well as deep-rooted racism in the Peel police force. Participants, predominantly female students of colour, decried the marginalization and victimization of Black students in the schools, as well as racial profiling and brutalization by school officials and police. Many demonstrators wore T-shirts bearing the slogan Black Lives Matter, and a satirical treatment of the PDSB that read “Police District School Board.” CTV coverage of the event showed the SA banner “Smash Racism. No Platform for Fascists.”
Speakers at the concluding rally of over 500 included an odd combination of slick bourgeois politicians, rebel singers and poets, and ardent grass roots activists. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, the former Ontario Conservative Party leader, praised the crowd for seizing the “historic moment”, but claimed that body-cameras for cops is a way to curtail police violence. Following the formal proceedings, Kurt Young, Socialist Action organizer in Peel, urged a small crowd gathered at the SA literature display table to fight for transitional demands, including “Disarm, De-fund and Disband the capitalist police force. For Workers’ and Community-Controlled Policing.”
The SA table, both at the start and end points of the March for Justice, was a busy hub of activity. Hundreds received the SA leaflet “Jail Killer Cops! Smash Racist Capitalism!” Forty-five people signed up for more information at the Socialist Action table where demonstrators purchased $65 in literature and buttons, and three people applied to join SA in Peel.
Inside the school board building where trustees held a meeting, the Director of Education and the Board Chair ignored demands that they step down over anti-Black and Islamophobic statements attributed to school administrators. For years, Peel parents have been complaining that Black students are more than twice as likely to be suspended from high school than their white peers. They are more likely to be streamed into non-university-track courses. Brampton North NDP MPP Kevin Yarde told the Ontario Legislature that “public school board meetings have ended in harassment of parents and advocates, and Black students continue to be hurt by racist incidents, lowered expectations and cruel punishments.”
Clearly, the struggle continues.