Policing, politics and protests: Halifax Police hint at crackdown for planned weekend protest
HALIFAX -- Two weeks after being soundly criticized on social media for helping to organize a so-called "freedom rally" on Citadel Hill, Halifax Regional Police are now warning the organizers there could be consequences for the gathering.
"We will use whatever measures are available to us to keep the public safe," HRP spokesperson Const. John MacLeod told CTV News on Wednesday.
The May 1 event attracted dozens of protesters to the Halifax landmark.
Most appeared to be wearing masks and were generally spaced a couple of meters apart.
In a press released issued May 4, the group quoted Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and acknowledged that police had helped plan the event.
"On May 1, we exercised those rights along with tens of thousands of people Canada-wide," the statement said.
"In the days leading up to this rally, we worked closely with the Halifax Regional Police Service on a way to ensure that participating Nova Scotians could still exercise their right to peaceful assembly, while also considering current "lockdown measures."
"Freedom Nova Scotia chose to alter our original rally plans to accommodate the most recent restrictions."
Halifax Regional Police later confirmed it was involved, suggesting the original plan included a march through the streets of downtown Halifax.
Despite pressure from the public for a crackdown, and a ministerial order from former Justice Minister Mark Furey in March of 2020, some say police are in a tough spot.
"It's a difficult line to draw, and I don't envy the police being in that situation," privacy lawyer David Fraser told CTV News from his home in Halifax, noting Canadians do have a charter right to protest, even if the vast majority don't agree with the stand being taken.
He also suggested a police crackdown could set the stage for a legal challenge later.
"So, if they want to be martyrs for their particular cause, they need to be prepared to be ticketed and to be cited for their violation of the public health orders, and they should take that standing up."
Active on its Facebook page today, CTV News reached out to the group for comment, but got no response by news time.
However, page administrators are encouraging members to share details on the rally, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday.