Halifax Regional Police chief Dan Kinsella, who was not present at yesterday's chaotic arrests and protest, says officers “responded appropriately” when using pepper spray which hurt at least one child.
In a media availability Thursday afternoon, following 24 arrests made August 18 as police forcibly removed shelters and tents inhabited by unhoused Haligonians, the police chief said “we have to look at this in its totality and what was happening at the scene,” when asked if using pepper spray near a child is appropriate.
“A number of my officers were assaulted yesterday, kicked, punched and head butted. That’s the situation they were faced with, and they responded appropriately,” Kinsella said.
Kinsella did not directly address the situation at the old Memorial Library on Spring Garden Road where pepper spray wielded by a police officer hurt a child, but said “there are situations where the irritants”—OC spray, or pepper spray—“can get into the air flow and in the wind it can travel a bit."
“I want to remind everyone there was assaultive behaviour, projectiles, they were prepared to decontaminate people at the scene,” Kinsella said of protesters, some of whom were seen purchasing milk at Spring Garden-area stores, which was used to soothe the eyes of those who had been pepper sprayed.
Dalhousie Legal Aid condemned the actions taken by police, and said in a statement that “by evicting and ticketing those who have nowhere else to go, the HRM is criminalizing some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
The chief also disputed publicly shared accounts of police officers threatening to arrest journalists at the old Halifax Memorial Library.
In his opening remarks Kinsella said, “HRP respects the right of media and expects their participation in matters of public interest and we make every effort to facilitate their access. At this time, we have no specific information in relation to our officers’ asking media for credentials, as has been claimed.”
The Coast’s two journalists reporting from the old library were repeatedly asked for media credentials throughout coverage of Wednesday’s events.
Over the course of Wednesday, fewer and fewer police officers were seen wearing name badges on their uniform. One officer told The Coast it was “ripped off.” Kinsella confirmed that he’s aware of accounts of officers removing their names from uniform, which is not acceptable.
“At HRP officers will wear their identification name tags unless there’s some extenuating circumstance to prevent that. We are reviewing the situation,” he said.
Cop with a “thin blue line” badge at the library. pic.twitter.com/w292FDEH9h— Simon de Vet (@sdevet) August 18, 2021
Kinsell says he’ll also be reviewing photos that show a cop wearing a thin blue line badge, which have been banned in some Canadian cities and by the RCMP. Kinsella says any additional badge on the uniform is not allowed.
The chief of police said repeatedly during the 30-minute media event that “the protesters were not peaceful.” He ended his remarks saying, “we cannot also allow trespass and misuse of municipal property to become the norm in our city as we have seen of late with tents and structures appearing arbitrarily.”