Saturday, young people in Halifax’s Black community led a conversation at the North Library about Scot Wortley’s report on street checks and the effects of street checks on them. After the conversation, there was a march from the library to the police station (and then on to Province House) demanding an end to street checks. At the police station, El Jones read her poem, “Stop Street Checks.”

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Let’s remember what started this all
They stopped Kirk Johnson by the mall
Seized his car and sent police vans
They did it just because they can
Cop saw 2 black men and began to chase
They did it just because of race
They’d even checked him twice a day
But Kirk Johnson won the case
This happened in 1998
So we’re 20 years too late
And after this Driving While Black
They were ordered to keep the stats
Did they bother? Did it change?
No they didn’t even obey
They hid the data all away
Said street checks were here to stay
And while they check us 6 more times
They said we just commit more crimes
Put us in a database
But oh no it’s not because of race
They say they keep the city safe
They say they keep us in our place
They say that we can’t walk the streets
Or they’ll roll up with police
They say that it’s just their routine
So they check us when we’re teens
And they check us when we’re old
Pull us over in the cold
Modern day slave patrols
To discipline and control
They say we’re threatening
Because of the colour of our skin
And they violate our rights
When they check us day and night
And they ask for our I.D.
And think that we can’t see
But the community says no!
Street checks have got to go!

So what do we do next?
Stop street checks!
Do we deserve respect?
Stop street checks!
If they serve and protect?
Stop street checks!
We’re going to stand up and protest!
Stop street checks!

You see Black folks already know
They tried to drive us out hundreds of years ago
And our community’s still here
So they can’t make us fear
It’s true they’re using all their tools
When they kick us out of schools
When they charge 1/3 of black males
When they bury us in jails
When they follow us in stores
So we’re here to say no more
You can’t treat us second class
And think that we’ll just let it pass
And if the justice minister won’t say
We’ll be there Election Day
We’re tired of delays
Take action right away
And if the police board isn’t speaking
We’ll be there at every meeting
Do you think if we were white
They’d be so casual with our rights?
If this were the South End
What do you think would happen then?
But we’re here to say enough
We’re done with sirens and handcuffs
We’re done being followed all around
We’re done being slammed onto the ground
So when police come terrorize
Black people organize!
They say we can’t walk or drive
Well we show them we’re alive
We’re 400 years here strong
Let them know that we belong
The community says no!
Street checks are going to go!

So what do we do next?
Stop street checks!
Do we deserve respect?
Stop street checks!
If they serve and protect?
Stop street checks!
We’re going to stand up and protest!
Stop street checks!

They think they have the power
They think we’re going to cower
They think because they have a badge and gun
They can have us on the run
They say it’s that it’s just really hard
If the police can’t stop and card
They say to wait for politicians
To make difficult decisions
So are we going to sit and wait
While they still discriminate?
While they try to compromise
And tell us we should sacrifice
So why won’t they just act?
Is it because we’re black?
Don’t we all pay our tax?
Aren’t we all Halifax?
Is that what we accept?
That we’re worth any less?
So we’re going to have to fight
There’s strength when we unite
There’s strength when we say no!
Street checks are going to go!

So what do we do next?
Stop street checks!
Do we deserve respect?
Stop street checks!
If they serve and protect?
Stop street checks!
We’re going to stand up and protest!
Stop street checks!

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El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. Minsiter Furey could have instructed that the practice of street checks be halted. The basis for stopping anyone should only be ‘reasonable and probable grounds’. Arbitrariness is not the basis on which police should proceed. When did it become accepted practice that street checks could be conducted? Seems like street checks are themselves contrary to the Charter provisions.

    1. What is your definition of a ‘street check’ ?
      What do you think a police officer should do as she/he goes about maintaiing the peace ?
      Have you read the report ?
      Page 85 is quite pertinent to the discussion.

      1. Mr May,

        Were you at the meeting at North Branch on Saturday?

        The people the most hurt by street checks should be consulted – not a panel, not a white consultant from Toronto – but the people who are effected everyday by everyday racism – the people in that room.

        As was expressed loud and clear on Saturday, they don’t need a report to tell them what has been a part of their lives for decades.

      2. The black community supports good scientific community policing like anyone else. What they don’t support is arbitrarily going up to a black people or any person for that matter and ask them who they are, to show ID and what they’re doing there. No one disputes police talking to someone for the express purpose of investigating a crime. Also, most in the black community are in support of the police building solid relationships with the community based on trust and respect. That is the way to engender cooperation with community members, not harassing, inconveniencing or intimidating people or putting people’s personal information into a databank “just to have it”. Why have many places banned? Why have City councilors like Richard Zurawski and Shawn Cleary called for an outright ban? Why is it that Lindell Smith has not? Even if banned police can still talk to people, but the arbitrary detention of people on the street.