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Injunction against protests too broad and sweeping

Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Last June, with COVID-19 well established in the province, thousands of Nova Scotians descended upon the downtown core of Halifax, to condemn police brutality and anti-Black racism following the murder of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis. One day earlier a smaller group rallied to demand justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Now, one year later, the same demonstrations would likely be illegal because of a recent provincial injunction designed to halt anti-vaccine and anti-mask groups from protesting public health measures. 

The injunction signifies an escalation by the provincial government and police; an escalation so sweeping that in the same day, the injunction was used as justification to ticket and arrest demonstrators at a Free Palestine caravan rally in Halifax’s south end. 

In total, more tickets were issued at the Free Palestine (17) car rally than an anti-mask rally (11). 

The May 14 news release from the Nova Scotia Government is specifically titled, ‘Injunction Granted to Stop Anti-Vaccine, Anti-Lockdown Protests.’ “Our collective responsibility is to keep everyone safe,” Premier Iain Rankin said in the release. 

The reason for the injunction rests squarely with Freedom Nova Scotia, the conspiracy-laced group defying lockdown restrictions. Organizers have held multiple rallies across the province, espousing propaganda about the dangers of vaccines and spreading disinformation about the pandemic while purposely flaunting social distancing and masking rules. 

The injunction “prohibits any rally that would contravene the province’s public health directives.” The injunction goes further, “also prohibit[ing] organizers from continuing to promote the rallies on social media.”

Police clearly believes it now possess the power to target social justice advocates and activists pursuing legitimate objectives.

This sweeping authorization to criminalize protests during a lockdown is too subjective and risks being used arbitrarily, as we saw Saturday with the Free Palestine demonstration. 

Issuing $2,000 tickets isn’t going to get us out of the pandemic. Earlier this month, CBC News revealed nearly 800 tickets have been issued for violating public health measures under the Health Protection Act

Several legal experts are sounding the alarm on the injunction, even going as far as saying “the court has massively overstepped here,” and calling for the order to be “trimmed down” or “struck down altogether.”

They’re also encouraging those who received tickets at the Free Palestine event to get legal representation, as the injunction is sure to be challenged. 

This is a slippery slope that we as Nova Scotians should pause and reflect on. And as we have seen before, when given the powers police will disproportionately focus on poor and/or racialized people.

Take it from someone who knows, police are not the solution. Police do not prevent crime, they simply respond; and time after time, we see the ramifications of their botched responses.

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