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Angela Bowden: Be safe mom, and don’t get arrested! Thoughts on policing the NCA counter demo

Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – “Be safe mom, and don’t get arrested, we need you out here!”

The words of my son pierced my heart and made me nauseous as I set out to the National Citizens Alliance counter protest today. It is one of the most critical and painful experiences as a Black woman, this need to consistently advocate for your son’s safety, and by doing so causing them to fear for yours.

While I sit here and decompress I am sick to my stomach with the racism flu again! So many thoughts, questions and answers swirled in my mind as I walked down my hallway and onto the elevator to attend yet another anti racism event in this province.

I turn on the radio in my car, but I am listening to my mind replay the same song over- why? Why is it seemingly the job of the victims to be ever vigilant in our communities responding to the never ending threats on our personal and psychological safety? Why is it the victim’s job to ensure their children and future generations enjoy freedoms already promised? Why are the triggers and trauma of BIPOC and their mental wellness not even a factor?  Why is it the victim’s job to serve and protect themselves when they pay for someone else to provide this service? Why?

It’s  a never ending game of whack-a-mole and clue as activists and allies uncover yet another planned white nationalist meeting in our province and plan for a counter protest.

See also: News brief: Halifax counter–demo shows white nationalist NCA the door

Exhausted, angry and pained these individuals show up because those tasked with protecting citizens cannot be relied upon to keep its citizens safe.

Just as I suspected, there was a thick hue of police politics hovering over the event when I arrived. The event was over as the success of the counter protest forced them out prior to my arrival. But then why did it feel like they were still among us?

“Hey watch your language, there are little kids walking around here,” I heard the male police officer’s voice. I turned toward the altercation to learn the officer was speaking to a counter protester who was responding to one of the white supremacists hanging around the perimeter flashing a mace.

Many thoughts raced through my mind but I caught these two – speech censorship and threats ignored. I thought to myself, are you really censoring speech? Imagine!

The City of Halifax granted a permit for hate speech to be delivered in an open and public forum in the exact location where the police are attempting to censor the speech of a counter protester to protect the children walking by. Whose children are we concerned about?

Next I couldn’t help but be angered by the fact that the white nationalist that flashed his mace walked away unbothered. This following the boys in blue  arresting a counter protester earlier for grabbing the brim of the NCA leader’s hat and tossing it into the crowd! Kids do this all the time on the playground. The counter protester did not pose any threat and a simple talk would have sufficed, but the police responded as if they were protecting the prime minister! As the counter protesters were filling me in on the earlier happenings, I had an out of body experience- “Am I caught in the twilight zone”, I said out loud!

As I engaged with a fellow protester, the female officers chimed in and  assured us they were concerned with everyone’s safety. That was reassuring, but you see, the problem with that was if it were true the NCA would not be protected but rather banned from organizing in our province. If that were true the City would not have granted a permit and gave permission for the NCA platform to elicit racist group contagion, because that is the only threat here, let us be very clear!

In a conversation with one of the ladies in blue, I attempted  to share more free emotional labour to hopefully extinguish her claim that she was of Jewish heritage and a woman and so our feelings and comments are not fair to her white woman fragility. She then topped this vanilla flavoured cream of excuse with “it’s not me, you guys are attacking the uniform.”

Questions were quickly posed asking how  does she advocate in her workplace for the banning of street checks? Did she let her boss, the city, know that she feels horrible they granted a permit to a known white nationalist group? Does she advocate for the safety of our children? The facts are that while the soldiers of Odin and NCA take up as much space as they please, our sons cannot walk in a group larger than three without the police taking their threat to public safety serious enough to street check them.

She now appeared to be at a loss of words as members of the crowd challenged what the individual wearing the uniform does inside and outside the uniform to protect the rights of BIPOC. Her colleague came to the rescue to assure us that Halifax has one of the most diverse workforces, as if diversity stood for anti racist. There were many holes in her story however – the racist street checks that this diverse force refuses to stop, apologize for or ban for starters!

I arrived home and learned the NCA made a second attempt to occupy the parade square after I left, but that again they were unsuccessful. The police however were successful in serving and protecting the protest signs, way to go HRP! What ever would we do without you looking out for the trees and white supremacists!

To add further insult to our ongoing injuries our committed allies were on the  attack as the frightened HRP could not decipher justified pain from hate and laid more charges for the ally grabbing and destroying an NCA protest sign, but not before giving an extra dose of security for good measure and deployed pepper spray!

Can we say excessive force? I guess I need to read up on the law because grabbing objects constitutes a real threat while hate speech and the clear intention to rally more members to help carry out the tasks of hate and terror in our streets  is perfectly ok! So to tally up today’s points in this obvious game of white supremacy, we have NCA in the lead with 3 points, permit, hat and protest sign while the victims are closed out with a score of 0.

The moral of the story is hats and paper matter but the lives of immigrants, muslims, African Nova Scotians, Indigenous people and POC do not!

See also: Angela Bowden: Street checks and the trauma stories of our elders and youths

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for that, I’ve lived in this city all my life and have experienced hate going to school everyday as a young black male, in my former workplace also including police personnel. Leaving the house is a struggle for the anxiety it has caused. You said everything I feel and have lived. We have to confront this kind of hatred and eradicate this systemic problem plaguing our community’s environment. Thanks again!

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