With solemn faces, C. J. Hamilton and Chris Whynder carried a banner through the north end of Halifax on Saturday afternoon that read “Education Not Incarceration”. The two Auburn Drive High School students, who will graduate Thursday, led a 50-strong multicultural march to 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,” Isaac Saney, a faculty member at Dalhousie University, bellowed into the megaphone. Walking beside him, a young girl carried a sign that read “Domestic terrorists wear blue!”
Since violent events at Cole Harbour High School and Auburn Drive in May, BINNS has challenged the media for misrepresenting what they say 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.
One protesting parent, who preferred not to be named, said police used excessive 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?”
Some media outlets have called the black youths involved in the two school incidents “pimps and drug dealers”, but she says her son, a student at Auburn, 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.”