IN­TEN­TIONAL IG­NO­RANCE

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?

The Coast - - COVER STORY - BY JU­LIA-SI­MONE RUT­GERS

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.”

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