by Edith Cody-Rice
Photos by Brent Eades
A crowd of 700 people, including the mayor of Mississippi Mills, Christa Lowry, turned out at the Greene Mill Food Truck today to “walk with Denise” to show support for Denise Doiley-Lavictoire and her family and protest against racism. Signs saying “We All Belong” and “No tolerance of racism,” as well as red paper hearts on sticks, were peppered through the crowd. Denise’s daughter said at the start of the walk that this was one of the happiest days in the life of her family. Denise was applauded repeatedly as she led the crowd along with Jeff Mills, who, with Jacob Greene, organized the walk.
This story has garnered Canada-wide attention, having been repeated and shared through numerous websites. A former Almonte resident who now lives in Alberta donated money to provide drinks to the crowd to keep them hydrated on this very hot day.
The walk traced the route that Denise takes to her work at the Orchardview retirement home and back to the Greene Mill. The Ontario Provincial Police were on hand to assist the crowd in crossing Ottawa Street.
Jeff Mills, one of the organizers of the walk, explained its origins:
I talked with Denise a month ago and couldn’t believe the abuse she had suffered. And this in 2020. So hard to imagine! All I could do was listen and I struggled to think of anything meaningful I could do to help her situation. I suggested she call the police.
After reading your story in the Millstone I vowed I had to do something so I went to see her again. With us both in tears I asked her what she wanted/needed. Denise responded “I just want to walk to work, alone and safely.” I posted #iwalkwithdenise on my Facebook page then Jacob Greene of the Green Mill suggested we organize a walk. He has been a strong ally for Denise.
Working with the support of Denise we put out the call for a peaceful welcoming and inclusive walk. Denise’s walk to work.
Our message is we stand together against racism knowing we each must vow to be a good ally.
Jeff told the Millstone that he was blown away by the response to his simple facebook call for the walk with Denise. In addressing the crowd he said, “This is not just an hour walk, it is bigger than anti-racism or an LGBTQ month. This is about all of us being better allies.”
This was a peaceful and very cheerful assembly with residents off to the side greeting Denise and cars honking in support. Intermittently the crowd chanted “We all belong,” which is an inspiring motto. Although many residents have been shocked by the revelations of Denise’s story, there was no anger in the crowd, only a strong message of support for Denise and her family and peaceful protest against racism.
Denise’s teenage son Dante Lavictoire said that it is good that this issue has come out and said that his schoolmates are very supportive of him.
This was a good day for Mississippi Mills. There is a lot of support in this town for people of colour, but it has to be activated in order to combat racist attitudes.