Tensions rise at Halifax Park as city calls on police to evacuate people
Residents and volunteers in West Halifax say they are nervous after the municipality asked police to help remove homeless people from a tent camp on Chebucto Road.
In a statement late Thursday, the municipality said it submitted a formal request for assistance to Halifax Regional Police on Wednesday and enforcement action now falls to the police.
The council held a special meeting Tuesday on homelessness in the city and specifically on what is happening in Meagher Park, also known as People’s Park, where people have been staying since last summer.
Many councilors said the situation in the park could not continue, echoing neighbors’ concerns about violence, verbal threats and health and safety issues.
Bruce Wilson, who lives on Chebucto Road, said in the days after that meeting he noticed more activity in the park, « almost like a build-up and getting ready for things ».
He said an outside group of protesters showed up.
« Over the past few days there has been an increase in activity… [It] seems to be a protection of the park, almost a fortification of it. We see a barricade of pallets on one side on Dublin Street, » he told CBC Radio. Information morning.
The issue of people co-opting the situation at the park for their own political agenda was also raised by several advisers at this week’s meeting.
PADS Community Advocacy Network volunteer Victoria Levack said protesters not associated with her group or park residents began showing up in July, usually in the evening, « to stir things up. »
« They asked if we wanted their help. We said no thanks and they came anyway, » Levack told CBC Radio. Main Street. « And then we said not so nicely, please leave. You’re not welcome here. We don’t support your values…and they won’t leave. »
Police say an illegal fire was started
Halifax Regional Police said in a statement late Thursday that « efforts continue to be made to allow occupiers to voluntarily vacate and remove their property from municipal property. »
Police also said conditions at Meagher Park « place many people in an increasingly vulnerable position ».
Police said there was an incident this week where an illegal fire was started and « park occupants » tried to stop firefighters from putting it out.
Listen to the full interview with Victoria Levack:
NS Main Street6:38Volunteer at Meagher Park concerned about unaffiliated group showing up
« We have an obligation to protect the public safety of everyone involved – and to urge efforts toward a safe exit, » HRP said.
But Levack said threatening homeless people with police action is not the answer. On Thursday, she said police cars drove back and forth, surveying the park.
« Police evictions of people in tents and shelters are wrong, especially when there are no better options. We cannot pull ourselves out of a housing crisis, » PADS wrote in a statement. this week.
Wilson, meanwhile, said he saw no other option but to call the police.
“It affects us negatively, emotionally. [We’re] concerned about our safety, safety of families, safety of property and it’s been a year and it’s been very stressful,” he said.
Although Wilson said he understands that some of the new people at the park are not affiliated with residents or volunteers, he is troubled by the behavior he has witnessed over the past few months.
Memory of last august
Some also fear that police involvement could escalate and turn into a repeat of what happened a year ago.
Last August, protesters clashed with police on Spring Garden Road as city workers removed shelters from parks and green spaces. Police pepper sprayed and arrested protesters.
Defense lawyer Asaf Rashid originally represented 18 people who were arrested that day.
« It’s being prepared again, based on what the city council says [about] recourse to the police. It worries me a lot, » he said, adding that no official investigation into the municipality’s oversight of police operations had taken place that day.
At last count, more than 600 people were homeless in the Halifax area.
During this week’s meeting, many councilors praised the city and province for the work that has been done to build modular units in Halifax and Dartmouth and to approve specific areas for tent sites.
But Rashid said those solutions clearly don’t work for everyone.
“There has been talk for the last year of the city and the province working together, but there is still a long way to go to resolve the issue,” he said.
Listen to the full interview with Asaf Rashid:
Information Morning – N.S.7:35Lawyer reacts to Halifax Regional Council plans to clear Meagher Park shelters