Black Lives Matter rally in Taipei joins surge of demonstrations worldwide

Hundreds gather in capital's 228 Peace Memorial Park to mourn innocent lives taken by police, call for society-wide change

Solidarity Rally in Taipei. 

Solidarity Rally in Taipei.  (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Central Taipei became a locus of solidarity as foreigners and locals alike on Sunday added their voices to hundreds of thousands of others around the world calling for an end to systemic racism after George Floyd's death at the hands of police in the U.S. city of Minneapolis last month.

Organized by the Black Lives Solidarity Global Initiative, the rally took place at 2 p.m. in front of the National Taiwan Museum in 228 Peace Memorial Park, expanding to several hundred strong over its two-hour duration.

The event culminated in the reading of names of African Americans killed by police in the U.S. It was a list tragically too long to be read in its entirety, ending with the most recent name, George Floyd, and followed by 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence — the length of time Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck as the latter pleaded for air with the now-infamous words "I can't breathe."

(Taiwan News photo)

Taiwan News spoke to one of the speakers, Patrick from St. Louis, Missouri. "We did [the rally] to raise awareness," he said, adding that the organizers had sought to provide a space where people could "learn more about the plight of black and brown people around the world," come to a better understanding of the complexities of these issues, and learn how they can become more effective allies of victims of systemic racism.

Patrick, a teacher-turned-business owner based in Taichung, claimed that in his experience, racial awareness and civil rights are "definitely on the come-up" both in Taiwan and globally. He said that recently, he has been approached by more and more Taiwanese — and older people in particular — with questions related to the BLM movement as it shifts "more and more to the forefront of people's minds."

(Taiwan News photo)

Two French women of African descent in attendance, Kelly and Lea, both expressed optimism when asked whether they thought the trajectory of the current wave of outrage would lead to lasting change. Kelly said she has been encouraged by the massive outpouring of support from protesters in France and elsewhere in Europe as well as across the Atlantic.

Asked about her experience as a person of color in Taiwan, Lea pointed out that while it does not manifest in an aggressive way, she has experienced some prejudice on the island, such as when a fellow passenger on the bus goes out of their way not to sit next to her, for example. In general, however, both said curiosity and friendliness have typified the majority of their social interactions here: "People are looking at you, but in a good way, a lot of Taiwanese ask us, 'Why you came to Taiwan?' because nobody knows Taiwan."

An American from Florida named Oliver said he was struck by how diverse the event was for Taipei. He also stated that he was encouraged by how many other white people he has seen taking up the banner of the BLM movement this time around: "This is happening all over the world right now; it's a really important conversation to be having," he said.

(Taiwan News photo)