A violent incident during a Black and Indigenous lives matter rally Saturday — depicted in a video shared on social media showing a woman assaulting two protesters with a hockey stick — highlights the message "racism happens in Winnipeg," organizers say.
The march, led by youth group Are You Listening Manitoba, began after a small rally at the Manitoba legislature grounds, before a planned walk to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Some demonstrators played drums, others danced, Theo Landry said in an interview Monday.
"I decided to express my protest and my profound rage by laying in the street," he said. "At that point, the crowd of vehicles that were waiting for me to get out the way got very aggravated at my way of protesting peacefully."
Landry said his friend, only identified as Judith, was standing with him in support, the pair blocking evening traffic, when a car pulled up. Its occupants — one man and three women — exited the vehicle and began to yell at them, he said.
"(One woman) started yelling that our protest was meaningless, that what we were doing was more of a negative aspect. In her eyes, it was viewed an aggression to society, that we shouldn't be expressing ourselves," Landry said.
"She spitted out slurs toward my friend... and, at one point, she started to threaten us, saying that if we stood there any longer in the street we would get hurt."
In response to the threats, Landry gave vehicles room to move around the protesters. At that point, Landry said, the woman's car sped toward them from behind, startling him and causing him to splash his water bottle onto the rear of the car.
The car stopped, and all four occupants exited the vehicle, Landry said.
but not these guys...— BLM ✊ (@CookeyyGam) July 5, 2020
They initially got out of their vehicles and were yelling at the protesters but then it quickly escalated... These guys drove ahead and stopped suddenly and got down from their vehicles and this is what proceeds... pic.twitter.com/PHkZsj9B1B
"To my surprise, (the same woman) came out the car wielding a hockey stick," he said. "I managed to step back quickly, but not fast enough because she did land two strikes on my right arm."
As seen in the video posted to Facebook on Sunday morning, the woman swings a hockey stick at Landry before Judith approaches to intervene. The woman turns her attention to Judith and begins swinging again as Landry steps between the two.
"It was at that point, when I saw she wouldn’t stop her whaling, that I decided to pick up my friend, and I was wanting to run away with her in my arms and get out of that situation entirely," Landry said.
The woman then lands a blow to Judith’s head.
"As I had her in my arms, we started running away and I heard her cry, and it's at that moment that I looked up at her and saw her face bleeding," said Landry.
The attackers also took his phone, Landry said, which he later was able to retrieve with a cracked screen and missing case.
For Jylah Shallcross, who organized Saturday's rally, the incident speaks to the continued prevalence of racially motivated violence in the city.
"This is the whole reason why we’re protesting — this is the entire reason why this movement is so big, why this has to be bigger than a hashtag," Shallcross said Monday. "People think it's not here? Well, it's in your backyard; racism happens in Winnipeg... it lives and breathes everywhere, and it is a huge fight that we need to all come together in."
The rally was small, Shallcross said, but peaceful, with the intent of bringing awareness to injustices faced by Black and Indigenous peoples.
Landry said he hesitates to describe the attack as racist, but believes "white privilege and white supremacy" were at play.
"What I mean by that is she expressed her rage in a manner where she thought she would get away with her act... Telling us our protest was meaningless, that our skin colour was not of importance," he said.
The assault was reported to police at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, according to an email statement from Winnipeg Police Service.
Upon arrival, officers tended to two people, one of whom was injured, the statement said. Members of the major crimes unit are investigating, and ask anyone with information to contact police.
Meanwhile, Landry said he and his friend hope to hear the woman’s story, and hope the issue is resolved without more hardship.
"We’re all in pain, we’re all suffering from something individually," he said. "I do not wish to repeat the cycle of pain."
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.