Nova Scotia

'This stuff happens to us every day': Rally aims to call attention to police brutality

Dozens of people, including adults and children, gathered outside Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street Sunday afternoon to speak out against police brutality.

Members of the black community says they're targeted all too often

Kate MacDonald is shown at a rally at Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Dozens of people of all ages gathered outside police headquarters in Halifax Sunday afternoon to speak out against police brutality.

People from the community passed around the microphone to share poems, prayers, songs and their own experiences. Some wrote messages in chalk on the entrance to the Gottingen Street building. 

Organizers of Taking Back the Streets with Joy hoped to have their voices heard in a positive way with a family-friendly event. 

"Oftentimes, I think that actions or protests can get kind of a negative spin, regardless of the intention, regardless of the cause," said Kate MacDonald, one of the organizers.

"Here we're actually going to be celebrating African Nova Scotian life and community, elders, youth, mothers. All the most important and integral people."

People of all ages attended the Sunday afternoon rally. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Though Halifax Regional Police have officially ended the practice of street checks, MacDonald said that hasn't stopped police brutality. She said the event was an effort to show support for people who police recently targeted. 

"I think police don't know how to act," she said. 

There have been recent situations where members of the black community were injured by police, including Santina Rao, arrested at Walmart in January, and a 15-year-old boy arrested last weekend.

Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team, the province's police watchdog, is investigating both cases. 

Organizers say the event was motivated by joy and they hoped their voices would be heard in a positive way. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Trayvone Clayton, who attended the rally, reached out to the teen, sharing that he had a similar experience about seven years ago in Halifax's south end. 

"It's still going on and that's kind of sad," he said. "It's very upsetting that some people don't even see this, or some people don't see find as a problem … but this stuff happens to us every day."

He and Derico Symonds, also at the rally, said the black community just wants to be treated equally. 

"The things that we're asking for, they're not crazy," Symonds said. "We're just asking to be treated respectfully and treated properly."

MacDonald, who has met with Police Chief Dan Kinsella numerous times as an advocate, said the community also wants police to be held accountable for their actions.

People left messages in chalk on the entrance to the police station. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

She'd like to see more training for officers, specifically training that is relevant to the local communities and the problems identified there. She also said internal investigations don't go far enough and don't create any public trust. 

"We often see police officers face no ramifications for their actions," she said. "That doesn't feel like justice. That doesn't feel like law. That doesn't feel like sense."

Activist El Jones said she'd like to see a youth de-escalation and engagement policy, on top of existing policies around how youth are questioned. 

She hopes Sunday's event sent a message to young people. 

"They're allowed to be in this city," she said. "They're allowed to talk back to police. They're allowed to ask questions. They're allowed to go where they want.

"We think it's really important that black bodies should have that presence and power in the city as well."

Halifax police said in an email they were aware of the peaceful protest and had officers nearby for observation to ensure everyone's safety.

"We are continually listening to community members, and hold ourselves accountable to improve the trust and confidence of communities we serve," the email said.



With files from Brooklyn Currie