Sgt. Boudreau communicates with Sakura Saunders, while other police officers look on.

Police make Friday evening visit to Meagher Park

At least five HRP cars were on scene twice throughout the night.

At 8:01pm Friday evening, Halifax Mutual Aid spokesperson Sakura Saunders sent a text to a half dozen people on an "alert list". There wasn't any context given, but those three words got the message across: “Police are here."

For nearly 48 hours, Saunders had been on-site at Meagher Park at the corner of Chebucto and Dublin Streets in Halifax, one of the few remaining temporary shelter sites after police violently evicted residents from others on Wednesday.

Two wooden structures stand in Meagher Park, one constructed earlier Friday afternoon in preparation for approaching tropical storm Henri. “This is about us trying to take care of people ahead of a tropical storm,” Saunders explained. “It was actually like, monsooning earlier today and the tents weren’t cutting it.”

By 8:10, with the news of police presence spreading social media, supporters began to show up for their community.

But police also continued to show up, at least five police cars and nearly a dozen uniformed officers stood on the sidewalk, huddled together but gazing at the dozen or so supporters who had linked arms and gathered around the two wooden shelters.
click to enlarge A shelter supporter takes a photo of an HRP officer's name tag. - VICTORIA WALTON/THE COAST
Victoria Walton/The Coast
A shelter supporter takes a photo of an HRP officer's name tag.
All police let activists and media take photos of their name badges, which were hard to read in dark blue text on black fabric. A man who identified himself as Sgt. Boudreau spoke with Saunders, asking her full name and phone number.

“If you have something that you want to communicate to folks, I can communicate that to folks,” Saunders told him. “I’m here to make sure that there is an orderly progression and communication that’s going on. But we do have a baby here.”

Nearby, NDP leader Gary Burril was rocking that five-month-old baby. By the time dusk fell around 8:30pm, almost 100 supporters had shown up. Boudreau told Saunders he was waiting on instructions from his supervisor. Saunders told him they just wanted everything to remain peaceful.

“We expect that if there is going to be any use of force that we can get ample warning about that happening,” she pleaded.
click to enlarge HRP officers huddle together on the sidewalk near Meagher Park while waiting for instructions. - VICTORIA WALTON/THE COAST
Victoria Walton/The Coast
HRP officers huddle together on the sidewalk near Meagher Park while waiting for instructions.
After that conversation, Sgt. Boudreau got a call on his cell phone. Once Boudreau hung up, he quickly told Saunders that HRP would leave momentarily. By 8:32pm, police cars were pulling away from the curb.

“It definitely was a victory,” Saunders said. “I talked to them about how much community support we had and how many neighbours had been dropping off food and sitting, sharing food with us.”

“It was tense there for a moment,” local activist and former poet laureate El Jones told The Coast. “We were a bit worried when we saw the cops come. Obviously, we don’t want any violence, we don’t want any escalation, we just want to keep each other safe, so we’re relieved they’re gone.”

As police pulled away, the crowd erupted into cheers and whoops. Music began playing on a speaker, and friends found each other as the tension dissolved. Requests for flashlights were made as darkness began to fall.

But the crowd was told to stay close, in case police returned (when The Coast asked around 8:30pm, officers confirmed their shift had “just started.”)

And return they did, just after 9pm. At first, it was just one car, but within minutes five cars were at the park including an unmarked vehicle.
click to enlarge Sakura Saunders speaks with an HRP officer the second time they show up on Friday night. - VICTORIA WALTON/THE COAST
Victoria Walton/The Coast
Sakura Saunders speaks with an HRP officer the second time they show up on Friday night.
 As Saunders approached an HRP vehicle, an officer who identified himself as McNamara told her the appearance was related to a noise complaint about the music playing. However, Halifax by-law N-200 says noise related to “yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing” or “the operation of any public address system” is allowed until 9:30pm.

It was only 9:05, but the by-law also says "evidence that one neighbour is unreasonably disturbed by a noise is prima facie evidence that the neighbourhood is unreasonably disturbed by the noise." It's unclear which neighbour complained to police.

After Saunders spoke with the crowd and agreed to turn the sound system off, officers once again packed into their vehicles and left the scene around 9:15pm. The crowd clapped again, quieter this time, but the energy at the park was palpable.

“I think this is just a victory for people power,” said Saunders. “This is what we were hoping for on Wednesday, that a show of public support would deter the police from carrying out orders to arrest, or to confiscate shelters from people.”

Supporters of the shelters are remaining on scene throughout the night in case police return.

This article has been updated to include more details about bylaw N-200.

About The Author

Victoria Walton

Victoria was a full-time reporter with The Coast from April 2020 until mid-2022, when the CBC lured her away. During her Coast tenure, she covering everything from COVID-19 to small business to politics and social justice. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College...

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