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HALIFAX–With solemn faces, CJ Hamilton and Chris Whynder carried a banner reading “Education Not Incarceration" through the North End of Halifax. The two Auburn Drive High School students, who have since graduated, led a 50-strong multicultural march on June 20 to Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street. The message of the protest, organized by the Black Independence Network Nova Scotia (BINNS), was clear: Halifax police and media need to stop portraying black youth as criminals.
“Schools, not prisons!” Dalhousie University faculty member Isaac Saney bellowed into a megaphone. Walking beside him, a young girl carried a sign that read: “Domestic Terrorists Wear Blue!”
Since violent events at Cole Harbour District High School and Auburn Drive in May, BINNS has accused the media of misrepresenting what the group says was unprompted police brutality towards black students. BINNS literature handed out at the protest said riot police arrested 14 black youths at Auburn Drive after a schoolyard argument on May 1.
In a similar incident at Cole Harbour, three youths were arrested following a series of fights at the school on May 4.
One protesting parent, who preferred not to be named, said police used unreasonable force against her son, leaving him with a black eye and rings around his wrists from handcuffs.
“Police have to do their job, but I think they’re being excessive, especially towards youth,” she said. “I mean, wow, you’re a big, bad cop, you’re carrying a gun, you’re going to bully a 15- or 16-year-old?”
An editorial in a local daily called the black youths involved in the two school incidents “pimps and drug dealers,” but The Dominion's anonymous source says her son, a student at Auburn Drive, is a good kid.
“Youth are not the problem,” Saney said after the protest, “it is the way society is structured socially, economically and politically.”
He said racism from police and the media is typical, not unusual.
“The black community has come to unfortunately expect it,” he said. “It’s part of being black in Nova Scotian society.”
Hilary Beaumont is a freelance journalist and editor in Halifax, and a contributing member of the Halifax Media Co-op. Currently she's writing the first ever Ethics Code for the oldest newspaper in North America, The Dalhousie Gazette.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.