KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Some 80 people attended a powerful community meeting, and several hundreds marched through downtown Halifax this afternoon, calling for an immediate and unconditional ban on the racist practice of police street checks.
Earlier this week a long-awaited report by Ontario criminologist dr. Wortley established that no matter how you look at the data, Black people are much more likely to be subjected to a police check than are whites.
Dr. Wortley’s report also documents many anecdotal reports by African Nova Scotians of unprofessional, rude, and sometimes blatantly racist police behaviour during traffic stops and other interactions with police.
There were no Black youths invited to the panel that responded to dr. Wortley’s street check report earlier this week. Never mind that Black youths, and especially young Black males, are subjected to street checks more than any other group.
In contrast, the community meeting at the North End Public Library focused on those voices of Black youths. Black youths also organized and led the proceedings.
“We are here today because we had a visceral and emotional reaction to what dr. Wortley’s report brought to life. For many Black people this wasn’t a shock or a surprise, rather it validated what we had been saying for many years,” said DeRico Symonds, one of the organizers of the event.
“With all respect, it took a well educated white man from Toronto for society to believe that, yes, Black people experience racism,” Symonds said.
“But still we’re marginalized. Halifax is hiring a new chief of police, but where is our voice in that?” asked an audience member.
“To heal as a community, we need not only a ban, we also need an apology,” somebody suggested.
The day after the report was issued Justice Minister Mark Furey announced a ban on street checks executed as a quota or performance tool.
That’s meaningless, speakers at the community meeting said. Even Minister Furey could not name one jurisdiction where such a quota is in place.
Everybody is saying how complex it all is. Don’t let yourself be fooled in believing that. It’s simple. Police checks are racist, and should be banned, said poet and activist El Jones.
Councillor Lindell Smith, who spoke briefly when the protesters gathered at the steps of the Gottingen Street police quarters, did not ask for an immediate ban.
Smith told the crowd that at the next meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners he would ask for a moratorium while the report’s recommendations are further discussed.
Call for a ban, somebody in the crowd yelled.
“The next Police Commissioners meeting is on April 15, at 12:30 pm, it’s a public meeting. You can attend, and you can also send in your written response, we need to hear that,” Smith said.
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