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NSGEU president Jason MacLean: “You know why I was stopped. I was driving while Black”

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As traffic infractions go, driving with a (lightly) tinted front window must be pretty low on the seriousness scale. At least, that is what Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU)  always assumed. After all, he had interacted with police several times while driving that same truck, and no officer ever deemed it even worth mentioning.

Jason MacLean at Province House, August 2016. Photo Robert Devet

Until one early morning this April when MacLean, who is African Nova Scotian, was driving down Morris Street towards Lower Water Street on his way to work. It was raining hard. Morning traffic, as always that time of day in downtown Halifax, was heavy.

That’s when MacLean, looking in his rear view mirror, noticed a police car doing a u-turn.

There must be something serious the matter, if they’re doing a u-turn, an unsuspecting MacLean thought to himself. Next thing he knows, he is pulled over.  

“The police officer comes up, I’d like to have your driving information. I am pulling you over for your tinted window. I say, you gotta be kidding me. I gave him my papers, and at that time I just start texting my lawyer,” MacLean says.

“He comes back, and he said. We’re going to let you off with a (verbal) warning right now. I said, you know why I was stopped, I was driving while Black. Not because of my tinted window. As far as I am concerned this is harassment.”  

“That’s a poor excuse this day and age,” the officer responded according to MacLean.

How many times do police do u-turns because of a tinted window, in the middle of rush hour, and in heavy rain?

“I really wonder, how often do people get pulled over on Lower Water Street? How many times do police do u-turns because of a tinted window, in the middle of rush hour, and in heavy rain?” MacLean says.

It’s a small world, and Halifax is a small town. The police officer who stopped MacLean was the same one who in 2014 arrested him at a Province House rally, supposedly for assaulting another officer. The officer bumped MacLean and roughly thew him to the ground, handcuffed him, and held him for two hours. Next the charges were dropped, and the Halifax Regional Police Department (HRPD) publicly apologized.  

After MacLean tweeted about the most recent incident HRPD thanked him for reaching out.

“I didn’t reach out to them. I am reaching out through my lawyer,” MacLean says.

Correction, May 4, 9:25 AM: An earlier version of this story suggested that MacLean had not tagged the HRPD in his tweet. This was incorrect.

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One Comment

  1. I am a middle aged white man who was pulled over for the same infraction on my way to work about 2 years ago. I, unfortunately, had to have the tinting removed and go to court to prove same before charges were dropped. This happened in North End Dartmouth and the officer also performed a u-turn in order to pull me over. About a year earlier, I was pulled over at the same intersection because an alert officer had spotted an expired licence plate sticker. My guess was both officers were young and keen.

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