Carolina Pannenbecker, 20, of Lacombe, holds up a sign that says, ‘White silence = violence” at an anti-racism protest in Innisfail. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Hundreds gather for protest against racism in Innisfail

‘I think love at the end of the day will win’

Education must be used to eliminate discrimination, says a woman who attended an anti-racism protest in Innisfail.

Carolina Pannenbecker, 20, of Lacombe, said she has dealt with racism.

“I came here eight years ago, and it was very difficult for me to get used to the culture,” said Pannenbecker, whose sister was a speaker at Saturday’s protest.

“Where I went to school, me and my brothers and sisters were the only black children there, so it was very difficult for us to get used to the culture.

“For the most part, everybody was very nice. But some people were being racist a lot in school. I had to go talk to my principal about that.”

Pannenbecker was one of more than 300 people who attended the demonstration, which took place in the field next to the No Frills grocery store, just off the QEII Highway.

The event was initially called off after an onslaught of online bigotry. But following “extraordinary” support and encouragement, the rally was back on, said organizer Brittany Bovey.

“Maybe this is naive, I’m not sure, but I think love, at the end of the day, will win,” said Bovey.

Bovey said she hopes to see “more awareness about racism” moving forward.

“There’s casual racism here and that can’t be a thing any longer. I hope to see maybe more representation on town council. I think (that) would be a great first step,” she said.

There were some hecklers attending Saturday’s protest.

During a speech by Calgary’s Adora Nwofor, one heckler called out: “It’s OK to be white.”

Nwofor replied, “For sure it’s OK to be white, because everything around you is white. We already have that message.”

Despite some heckles, the protest continued on.

Pannenbecker says her family continues to experience racism today.

“My little sister is dealing with racism at her school right now, and we had to sit her down and talk to her about how she needs to stand up and say what is right,” she said.

Education is a powerful tool in the fight against racism, said Pannenbecker.

“I think everybody needs to educate themselves and learn about each other’s culture,” she said.

“There are so many parts of the community where you can learn. Go to the library and learn. There are so many churches that can hep you understand other people’s cultures.

“I think there would be less racism if everybody learned about each other and learned to accept each other, instead of trying to change somebody into what they believe is right.”

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Hundreds attended an anti-racism protest in Innisfail on Saturday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Calgary’s Adora Nwofor was one of the many speakers during an anti-racism protest in Innisfail. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

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