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This article was published 20/6/2020 (580 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Hundreds gathered at the Manitoba legislature Friday night to say her name in unison, over, and over again: Eishia Hudson.
They listened to prayers and ceremonial songs sung in her memory. They watched fancy shawl, jingle and traditional performers dance in her memory. And they chanted to call for justice, in her memory and the memory of all the other Indigenous people who have been killed by police in recent months.
Among those in the crowd was Navaeh Asham, who called Eishia both her best friend and an amazing, outgoing young woman who "made friends with everyone."
Eishia, 16, was shot by Winnipeg police on April 8, after officers chased down a group of teenagers driving a stolen SUV after a reported liquor store robbery in the south end of the city. She was the first of three Indigenous people who were killed by police in incidents that took place over a 10 day period in mid-April.
Asham, 15, said her friend was a teenager who made a mistake.
"She didn’t deserve to die," she said.
Nearly every speaker who took the microphone at Friday’s peaceful rally echoed those sentiments, often citing their own mistakes as youth — including Melvin Moar, Eishia’s grandfather. "I miss her every day, so much," Moar told the crowd in an emotional speech that closed the two-hour-long gathering. "I wish I had a couple minutes with him, the one who shot my granddaughter. You know what I’d do? Nothing."
The Hudson family and community members organized the rally Friday to both commemorate Eishia’s life and demand real change to address systemic racism in policing.
During his speech, Jerry Daniels, grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, called on the crowd to be part of the change in the culture created by colonialism and hold every system accountable, from Child and Family Services to Manitoba Justice.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew, and Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Leah Gazan also gave impassioned speeches.
"You don’t get many moments. This, is the moment. And we need to stand together, as Indigenous and Black people and we need to work together to fight for justice because our liberation is tied with each other," Gazan said.
Morgan Manitopyes, 40, came to hear the speakers Friday and show his support, two weeks after he attended the Justice 4 Black Lives protest on the same grounds. The June 5 event drew almost 15,000 people to stand up against anti-Black racism and police violence. A Sioux man, Manitopyes said the mobilization among Black and Indigenous people in the city gives him hope — but he questions if momentum will fade.
"People are showing up for support, yeah, but for how long? Is this going to be happening in two months from now, three months from now? That’s what I would like to see," Manitopyes said, adding it’s unacceptable that he has come to consider being stopped by police on his daily runs around Osborne Village as normal. "They always ask me where I’m running to," he said.
As attendees chanted and listened, members of Indigenous-led community organizations, including the Bear Clan, Mama Bear Clan and Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin, handed out disposable masks and water bottles.
In an interview before the rally, Gazan told the Free Press it’s exactly these kinds of organizations that need to be funded. "People need to understand what defunding the police is; it’s not not supporting safety and security; it’s about investing in front-line organizations and people that are actually qualified to do the job," she said.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.