In the wee hours of the morning on Friday, August 12, city staff, with the “support and assistance” of Halifax Regional Police, fenced off Meagher Park, aka People’s Park. This comes after eviction notices were given to residents on July 5, a deadline to vacate the park on July 17 and nearly a month of playing will-they-won’t they with the police.
According to a statement released at 5am Friday by the HRP, there were no residents remaining at the park when it was fenced off. The Coast confirmed this with park volunteer Calista Hills. She says the police “helped” one person move to a city-approved park Saturday night, and “harassed” another resident into leaving on Monday morning. That resident told reporters Monday the police said they were “suiting up” and “they were coming at this park and they were coming with all they got,” as well as bringing in officers from Truro and Cape Breton. “The remaining people left because they didn’t want to face persecution by the police or city,” Hills says.
A statement from People’s Park volunteers posted on Instagram Friday afternoon reads, “These individuals did not move into better circumstances, just other locations—and with no help from the city or HRP to do so.” The police and the city “claim this is a peaceful closure, but the constant intimidation that residents endured was anything but peaceful.”
“We recognize there is no easy way to have implemented this plan, and the approach we took was meant to reduce trauma from any actions and ensure supports for all involved in the best and most thoughtful possible manner while reducing public safety risks. HRP officers took a patient, measured and supportive approach throughout as the process unfolded while acting in a supportive capacity,” reads the HRP statement.
All that remains in the park are a few tents and two Halifax Mutual Aid-built Tyvek shelters. According to a statement put out by the HRM on Friday, the city will allow service providers back into the park to collect people’s belongings. It also says HRM “acknowledges” the call to designate a new encampment site (in addition to the four the city chose), and will “explore this further”.
“In terms of the upcoming reconstruction of Meagher Park, over the coming months, following an assessment of the condition of the park, work will begin to clean the area and resod the grass,” the statement reads.
Reflecting on the park’s almost yearlong history, the volunteers' statement reads, “This issue is not gone. And the community and support networks that have been built in and through this space will be lasting as we all—housed and unhoused—continue to push for change and support each other where systems have continued to fail.
“We have seen over 10 people find permanent rental or supportive housing during their stay. We’ve had numerous former residents return to volunteer and offer support once in a more stable living situation. These relationships do not end with the park.”