On a chilly Sunday afternoon, dozens gathered in front of the Halifax Regional Police station for a peaceful demonstration to “take back the streets with joy.”
“We’re here to make some noise and spread some joy,” said organizer Kate MacDonald.
But at the same time, the group wanted to highlight the issue of systemic racism within the police force, and speak out against what’s being called recent incidents of police brutality.
“We’re also showing our youth today that they can show presence, they’re allowed to be in this city,” said community activist El Jones.
“They’re allowed to talk back to police, ask questions. They’re allowed to go where they want.”
The demonstration was organized after a 15-year-old videotaped his own arrest outside a shopping mall in Bedford. The video has since been viewed thousands of times on Facebook. It shows him asking two officers why he’s being arrested for and what he’s being charged with, before being brought to the ground.
A Facebook post by the teen’s mother alleges he received a concussion as a result of the arrest.
“When I saw that video I was devastated,” said MacDonald.
“This is our kid, this is our child. He is our child. What would you do if this is your kid? What would you want the community to do for you?”
Community advocate Trayvone Clayton attended the event. He said it’s disappointing to see incidents like these still happening in 2020.
“When I was 16 by Saint Mary’s University, I was beaten by police, arrested, put in the back of a police officer’s car, handcuffed,” he said.
Now in his 20s, he says it’s important to speak out and let people know this is happening.
“It’s upsetting that some people don’t even see this as a problem,” he said. “Some people think, ‘Oh, he deserved it, or that person’s being dramatic,’ but this stuff happens to us every day. Every day throughout Nova Scotia.”
DeRico Symonds is also an advocate fro the community and is calling for change within the police force.
“The things that we’re asking for are not crazy. We’re just asking to be treated respectfully and treated properly.”
Last year, after years on the African Nova Scotian community calling for an end to street checks, a report was released which found that black men are five times more likely to be stopped. That report prompted a ban on street checks.
In November, Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella apologized to the community.
But just months after that apology, many in the community say they haven’t seen any action.
“I think at this point we can say not only is that apology meaningless, but it’s also not accepted,” said Jones.
“They have not done anything to show any goodwill to the community.”
Police monitored the demonstration on Sunday from a distance and in a statement say that the event was peaceful and officers “were close by for observation to ensure everyone’s safety.” The statement also says that HRP takes pride in serving the community with dedication and professionalism.
“We are continually listening to community members, and hold ourselves accountable to improve the trust and confidence of communities we serve,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, the Serious Incident Response Team is investigating the incident stemming from the teen’s arrest at the Bedford Place Mall.