1. Policing Pride

Halifax Regional Police chief Jean-Michel Blais announced on Monday that the police would not participate in uniform at the Pride parade this year.

Despite this being a decision the police chief took voluntarily, that didn’t stop outrage on social media, or the whipping up of anger and hatred against Black people who weren’t even part of the decision.

Halifax’s 2014 Pride parade. Photo: Stoo Metz

Halifax doesn’t have a Black Lives Matter chapter. Yet comments calling Black people “the real terrorists,” “bigots,” “racists,” “bullies” and all manner of other names are freely spouted by white commentators. Of course, this mob of Black people intimidating and forcing the police exists only in these white imaginations — if Black people had so much power over the police we’d be making them stop police checking us at three times the rate of the rest of the population.

It’s sort of funny how the same people screaming about disrespecting the police are unable to respect the decision of the police chief: after all, it seems quite insulting to portray him as some weak-willed idiot who caves to the pressure of a screaming mob of criminals. It’s also funny that the same people who unconditionally support the police and go on about letting the police do their jobs and the police know best in any other situation — including police shootings, police checks, police brutality, accusations of police corruption, etc. — suddenly don’t think the police know how to do their jobs when the chief takes a decision that he’s calculated will help improve relations with the community.

I’ve met chief Blais a few times. I obviously don’t agree with his statements around the police stops, or the lack of real accountability for racism within the force, or how the police say one thing to the Black community but then continue with racist practices that unfairly criminalize Black people. But he’s not an idiot, and he clearly subscribes to “progressive” ideas of policing. He’s spoken before about how police forces have to be aware of Ferguson/police shootings, and how the police have to rebuild trust with communities. He’s also resisted some of the extreme aspects of militarizing the police, and he gives the impression of being smart and thoughtful about the serious challenges facing the force.

Image of Blais from halifax.ca

Now, ultimately, I would argue that reformist moves are always invoked by institutions to preserve themselves. It’s not that the police actually cease to be racist/homophobic when they implement these kinds of changes, it’s that when one overt form of oppression becomes unsustainable and people begin protesting, the institution “reboots” by claiming it’s reformed, and that it’s a “new” start. Unpopular practices are ended, but often oppression just shifts form — for example, should police checks actually be banned, the police would institute other methods to surveil Black people. Progressive rhetoric about connecting to communities, or acknowledging racism, or admitting to wrongdoing “in the past,” or some “bad apples,” enables the system to survive and to reinvent itself.

It is in the interest of institutions to re-invent themselves, as allows a cycle of crisis and reform that prevents actual transformation: rather than demanding the end of the use of state force against Black communities as a whole, for example, people demand the end of a particular practice. When the police concede and end the practice or issue the apology, or increase “education and awareness,” they gain credit for listening, for fixing the problem, and as the focus by activists or critics was on one narrow aspect of policing, it is often difficult for these groups to re-organize once “victory” has been won to address other issues.

In the words of the Canadian Sentencing Commission in another context, reforms are often more a “tribute to the resilience [of the system] than a chronicle of change.” Institutions thrive on this cycle of crisis and reform, as Stanley Cohen describes in this “idealist” view of history:

All change constitutes “reform” (a word with no negative connotations); all reform is motivated by benevolence, altruism, philanthropy and humanitarianism, and the eventual record of success of reforms must be read as an incremental story of progress….[These changes] are seen in terms of the victory of humanitarianism over barbarity, of scientific knowledge over prejudice and irrationality. Early forms of punishment, based on vengeance, cruelty and ignorance give way to informed, professional and expert intervention . . .

Not that this vision is at all complacent. The system is seen as practically and even morally flawed. Bad mistakes are often made and there are abuses such as overcrowding in prisons, police brutality, unfair sentencing and other such remnants of irrationality. But in the course of time, with goodwill and enough resources (more money, better trained staff, newer buildings and more research), the system is capable of being humanized by good intentions and made more efficient by the application of scientific principles. Failures, even tragedies, are interpreted in terms of sad tales about successive generations of dedicated administrators and reformers being frustrated by a prejudiced public, poor co-ordination or problems of communication. Good intentions are taken entirely at their face value and are radically separated from their outcomes. It is not the systems professed aims which are at fault but their imperfection realisation. The solution is “more of the same” . . . As a view of history and a rationale of the present policies [this] is by far the most important story of all. (S. Cohen at 15, 18)

In the context of the Pride parade, then, for all the hysterical shrieking about the injustice of the police deciding not to march in uniform, it’s obvious that this decision has been taken to benefit the police in the long term, to position them as a leading progressive force in Canada, and to give them leverage in negotiating with communities. At the same time, Pride, reeling from its own issues of racism and discrimination, is able to demonstrate its commitment to communities of colour and “radical leftist queers” (lol), and repair relationships within the LGBTQ community. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, and it’s all smart decision making, but what it isn’t evidence of is “bullying” or “hatred” by Black people who apparently are so powerful that we can intimidate the police chief, yet somehow so powerless than we can’t even walk on the streets, or breathe.

At a time where they are facing heightened scrutiny over racist police stops, and where police credibility in general has been eroding as revelations of police cover up, brutality, and corruption regularly hit the news, it’s in the police’s own interests to, as they say, listen to the community on this one small issue. Of course, that won’t stop the mostly white and straight people — the least affected by police violence — from feeling personally harmed and attacked somehow by imaginary Black people, and imagining themselves as somehow victims of this.

In other words, the tl;dr version of this story is: white man does something, Black people get blamed anyway.


Needless to say, these commentators are not similarly outraged about stories of Trans prisoners held in segregation, the refusal of prisons to safely distribute condoms or other materials to allows for safe same-sex activity, how police react to domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships, homophobia within the police force, the criminalization of LGBTQ youth, the poverty faced by homeless young LGBTQ people, mental illness faced by queer youth due to homophobia, or the high rates of violence suffered by Trans women of colour. No, the police chief wearing a polo shirt with a logo rather than a uniform is the greatest injustice facing LGBTQ communities today.

On the subject of the police and social media, I wonder why people might not feel too safe with some members of the Halifax Police representing at Pride.

Maybe it’s the sharing of memes from Ted Nugent’s page:

If you don’t know who white supremacist Ted Nugent is, here’s a sample from the sort of stuff regularly posted on his Facebook page:

Yes, it’s very comforting to think the police officer in uniform beside you is a follower of Ted Nugent and has no problem publicly sharing memes from the same page that refers to “subhuman mongrels.” Even worse, this particular post came from the page of a Halifax police officer who isn’t even white, which suggests that cultures of white supremacy are likely deeply embedded in the force if this is what the officers who actually educate on race and culture are posting.

This poster below, which is clearly not an official Toronto Pride poster, was shared as though it were real on the page of members of the Halifax Police force, with the Halifax cop writing:

Wow all I can say is wow. I lost all respect for Toronto Pride and I will lose all respect for halifax pride if this trend continues here. Maybe we should make one excluding people from our natal and Canada parade

Oops. That seems a bit awkward now the police decided to withdraw from our Pride parade.

Besides the alarming discovery that members of our police force — the same force that runs internet safety days — can’t distinguish satire from actual fact and who, despite being informed on the thread that the poster was fake, continued to insist it was real, this meme was clearly posted to inflame members of the public and the force against Black Lives Matter, and solicited such comments as police officers threatening to “take the names of the organizers and take note as to how many times they need the police’s assistance down the road.”

Maybe they could use the time not marching in Pride to brush up on basic internet common sense and how to distinguish fact from fake, or how to research the source of memes before you post them.

Here’s some lessons on history and race from another (white) member of the Halifax police force:

To recap: Black people invented racism because somehow getting shot by the police benefits us.

Feeling safe around these officers yet, Black people?

One can guess that some significant portion of the force doesn’t support the chief in his decision not to march in Pride, and that members of the force also have no problem posting material in public places to whip up hatred and alarm against Black people. They are, of course, welcome to do so as citizens, but then maybe they shouldn’t whine so hard when people say they feel scared of police, or they don’t feel protected, or they don’t feel the police are truly on our side. That’s to say nothing of the number of officers who have posted online defending police shootings, or the homophobic language you can see on pages. Funny how they can’t possibly not represent the police in uniform at parades, but have no problem invoking their status as private citizens to inflame hatred against Black Lives Matter and endanger activists.

2. Whether the Weather

I know Tim has curmudgeoned in the past about how news stations are devoting more resources to weather reporting. With the ever-expanding news cycle and the need to provide more and more content, weather news is big business, and news organizations have responded by creating endless weather coverage and reporting every storm like it’s a cataclysm.

I had that in mind on Thursday night watching the constant updates on Twitter and news sites about the snow storm, so I did some Googling around, and found this article from CBC about the influence of weather on marketing.

Predicting the weather plays an enormous role in the world of advertising and marketing, too. Weather determines what products sell and which don’t, and it influences our moods when it comes to spending money. Even a one-degree shift in the temperature has dramatic effects on the sales of dozens of products.

The article looks at the history of weather reporting, from the Farmer’s Almanac to the Weather Channel, and also has a lot of rather fascinating information about how companies use weather forecasting to sell products.

Interesting stuff.

3. Sheepers Creepers

I miss all the good stuff. A sheep was wandering around and I could have seen it. That would have been the highlight of my week.

Halifax Regional Police said they responded to the scene, but were too late.

“We did attend an animal complaint call … in relation to a loose sheep, however he or she was located by its owner prior to police arrival,” said Const. Dianne Penfound.

The caption on Global News is funny: “A sheep is pictured in a field.” Ok, so not the actual sheep sauntering around the snowy parking lot, got it.

Also not the sheep.

Wait a minute, the sheep was part of a “reptile zoo?” And said zoo is somewhat in my area? And they already had a sheep escape?

So what’s stopping some giant boa constrictor or python or whatever the hell from escaping and trying to live in my dumpster or slither up through my toilet while I’m peeing or something? This is horrifying. Like people be out here worried about imaginary Black people, and all the while there are snakes blithely chilling in our communities probably plotting to come strangle and eat us at night, and that’s entertainment? And it’s for children? What is wrong with y’all!*

*Cue all the snake lovers who will now cancel subscriptions to the Examiner/post comments about how cuddly snakes are/snake lives matter. Shudder.

A smiling young Black woman with long wavy hair

El Jones

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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