19 May 2021
Halifax Police chief Dan Kinsella owes an apology to the pro-Palestine drivers and their passengers at the Free Palestine COVID Safe Car Rally which gathered at the Saint Mary’s University parking lots on Saturday. The thousands of dollars of tickets (fines of up to $2,000 per person) that police issued must be shredded. And the one man (at least) who was handcuffed and arrested has suffered humiliation, injury to his self-worth, and a profound violation to his personal freedom. He deserves much more than a “sorry”.
Organizers for the Free Palestine Covid Safe Car Rally phoned the police a couple of days before the event to tell the police of their plans for lastSaturday’s car rally. The organizers were told as long as they stayed in their cars, didn’t contravene the public health order for masking and remained socially distanced, there was no problem with their plan.
But Police Chief Kinsella either did not get the memo, or he deliberately double-crossed the Free Palestine car rally organizers.
The day before the car rally, a NS Supreme Court judge issued an injunction against anti-maskers who were set to demonstrate on Citadel Hill on Saturday. The injunction was clearly directed only toward Freedom NS — the anti-mask group.
Chief Kinsella chose to use the injunction, which forbade the anti-maskers’ meeting, against those who attended the pro-Palestine car rally at the same time. This abrogation of civil liberties is serious.
We don’t believe that sitting with your family in your own car contravenes any Covid-related health rules. For merely doing that, people received $2,000 fines.
We don’t believe that honking your car horn on a Saturday afternoon, contravenes the noise bylaw. Otherwise, the Festival of Lights at Christmastime, motorcycles without mufflers, cement mixer trucks, construction noise, and even the Harbour Hopper would be outlawed.
This is the police chief overstepping his remit. And allowing his officers to step on people’s rights, the rights of newer Canadians and Muslims.
This past weekend, cities across Canada saw rallies and demonstrations against Israel’s deadly attacks on Gaza. In the last week alone,. 213 Palestinians, including 60 children, have been killed in airstrikes. Quebec City had nearly 2,000 peaceful and masked protestors, and thousands marched in Montreal; 8,000 protestors filled the square at Toronto city hall. In Vancouver about 2,000 marched. All these cities are suffering with Covid’s third wave, and hundreds (sometimes thousands) of new cases daily. Stores, markets, libraries, restaurants and bars are still closed. Yet in those cities, people could march for Palestinian human rights. As far as we know there were no arrests for merely walking, or driving in a cavalcade, and no tickets issued.
As Cara Zwibel, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s director of fundamental freedoms said, “We’re concerned about the breadth of the injunction. … It really basically appears to prohibit all protest activity by anyone throughout the province until the state of emergency is over, which we don’t know whether it will be weeks or months… until that happens.”
We defend human rights for Palestinians. Now we are demanding our rights as Canadians be upheld. We demand the tickets be shredded and any charges be dropped. An apology is also in order.