Equity Watch is very concerned about the abrogation of Nova Scotians’ human rights. On Aug. 18, Halifax Regional Police (HRP), some who sported “Thin Blue Line” pins and some who deliberately removed their police identity badges, destroyed tent homes and sheds of residents of Halifax. These dozens of people must live “rough” in the city’s parks, in full view of empty buildings which the city and the province have refused to use to house the homeless. Hundreds of people have been turned away from shelters, cannot find affordable housing and have had little to no support during the Pandemic. This is just one symptom of a full-blown affordable housing crisis, deepening further the inequality in our province.
The most violent police conduct occurred in the front yard of the former (now empty) Halifax public library on Spring Garden Road. The library, which has been vacant for more than five years, could be home to scores of Haligonians without homes. Instead, the city has refused to create needed accommodation in the disused library. On Aug. 18, police pepper-sprayed and beat demonstrators with batons. Most were there to protect themselves, their tents, their sheds and their friends. None were armed. Police sprayed demonstrators and passers-by indiscriminately. They made at least 12 arrests; some protesters were fined more than $200.00. The police blocked reporters and camera-people. One would think after the attacks on the homeless in Toronto parks, the police would have been warned NOT to antagonize the public, but the Halifax police provoked the homeless and their supporters.
What of the argument the mayor and the spineless city councillors made that the police were just enforcing health and safety regulations? If that is so, then why was it that police removed their identification and number badges? Why did police wear the “thin blue line badges?” (These unauthorized badges, analogous to Confederate flags, are symbols of a “fuck you” attitude by some police officers.)
Why did police use pepper spray indiscriminately on the citizenry which included pedestrians and children? Why were city workers not told in advance about their job of dismantling the sheds – so they could refuse the dangerous work under Occupational Health and Safety?
The police chief’s response will no doubt be that in his force there are a few bad apples. Fine, then we are waiting for those police to be named and disciplined. Residents, homeless or not, have the right to be treated with respect and not harassed or violated by police. We are watching.