Over and over again the city’s racialized communities are asked to chronicle the racist, dehumanizing violence they live every day. Over and over again they oblige, but nothing changes. Why can’t we hear them?
We’vebeen here before, many times. On Monday night, Black community members packed into a room at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church to discuss street checks and racial profiling with researchers from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
The community meeting was one of a series of three “Starting the Coversation” sessions conducted this week that will be analyzed for a larger report by the commission on the use of street checks—the police practice of monitoring or stopping citizens—and its longstanding ties to racial profiling in this province.
Kymberly Franklin, senior legal counsel for the HRC, and Scot Wortley, head of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, facilitated the meeting to hear the community’s stories and concerns regarding interactions with police.
Tensions ran high. Person after person stood to air their grievances—about police behaviour, yes, but also about the ineffectiveness of these kinds of community conversations in sparking tangible change.
“It’s the community that’s asked over and over to share their pain, and there’s no progress,” said Marcus James, co-creator of 902 Man Up, an organization built to support Black men in Halifax. “We’re asked to express and share our pain when people don’t understand how hard that is.”
Many individuals at the meeting shared reflections of the same story; of being stopped and confronted during mundane activities by police officers who claimed to be conducting “routine checks.”
James’ son, Trayvone Clayton, spoke about being pinned to the ground and arrested for jaywalking near Point Pleasant Park. Other speakers echoed similar humiliating, dehumanizing experiences like being forced to exit and put their hands on their car during daily commutes, in front of rush-hour traffic.
“I’ve been harassed, been followed [by police], bringing groceries home,” said Tom, another community member at the meeting. “Maybe it’s the organic bananas I buy, but this is some bullshit.”