Man speaks out on what he calls ‘utter brutality’ from Halifax police | (2023)

A man who chaired a Neighbourhood Watch group in the Halifax area for 15 years says he’s fed up with alleged “utter brutality” from city police after four people were arrested at a protest against a development in Dartmouth, N.S.

Man speaks out on what he calls ‘utter brutality’ from Halifax police | (1)

Bill Zebedee wrote an open letter to Halifax Regional Police chief Dan Kinsella this week, saying he is stepping down from the Watch with a heavy heart.

“I have remained silent … but no more,” he wrote in the letter.

“I can no longer sit by and watch this Chief Kinsella. I know many, many good officers, many of whom will no longer speak with me, but it is time to speak.”

Open letter to HRP Chief @DanKinsellaHRP

— Bill Zebedee (He/Him) (@Bill_Zebedee) September 8, 2022

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Police chief Kinsella was unavailable for comment upon a request from Global News.

Zebedee joined the Neighbourhood Watch back in 2005, saying he has “always been a community minded person.”

Those who are on the watch get a special number to contact local police when they suspect a crime is happening in their community, and they can do so anonymously. Zebedee was in the Lynn Drive area in Dartmouth.

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He was an active member of the Watch for two years before he became the chair.

“Whenever I would see a crime happening, a drug deal happening at the base of my driveway, whenever I heard gunshots or any manner of crime, I would be the first one on the phone with the police,” Zebedee said.

“It’s been happy and sad,” he said of his time on the Watch. “I have met some really incredible police officers who actually care about the community.”

‘That sort of woke me up’

After spending years of supporting Halifax Regional Police, Zebedee got a bad taste in his mouth for the first time in 2014.

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That year, Halifax Regional Police arrested Jason MacLean, then-vice-president of NSGEU, during protests over a controversial health-care labour bill.

Police said he’d be charged with assaulting an officer. But a video from the arrest showed an HRP officer pushing MacLean to the ground and handcuffing him. After seeing the video, police dropped the charges and publicly apologized to MacLean.

Zebedee said MacLean was a friend of his, and the situation surprised him.

“He was the only individual who was arrested, the only African Nova Scotian who was arrested,” Zebedee said. “I always knew that there was police violence. I never thought I’d see it in Nova Scotia, in Halifax.”

Man speaks out on what he calls ‘utter brutality’ from Halifax police | (2)

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But, he said, more recent incidents have made it clear to him.

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“What happened in the public library situation just recently … that sort of woke me up.”

In August of 2021, dozens of city police officers descended on parks around the municipality to remove unhoused people staying in crisis shelters and tents.

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Hundreds of people poured into the city’s downtown, by the Old Library, to protest the shelter removal. This resulted in officers deploying pepper spray into crowds of people and more than two dozen arrests.

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Then this August, environmentalist Jacob Fillmore chained himself to a piece of tree-cutting equipment to protest a development slated for the Eisner Cove Wetland in Dartmouth. The protest ended up turning dangerous as machinery was operated in close proximity to the protesters.

Zebedee said he was disappointed to see the Halifax police response that day.

“They didn’t respond to what was happening with Jacob,” he said. “They didn’t respond to the fact that a citizen was almost run over by one of these machines.”

Zebedee said he instead witnessed police respond to a small group of protesters on Lynn Drive with several vehicles. “I began getting very frustrated with the actions of the police that day,” he said.

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That’s when he began reflecting on his role. “I’ve been very complacent and very silent on the matter,” he said.

The final act pushing him to resign was the arrests made on Tuesday during a protest against the Eisner Cove development.

Contractors were trying to get into the site to clear cut trees, but the protesters blocked that work. Nova Scotia actor Elliot Page also attended the protest, and recorded HRP officers arresting Mi’kmaw elder and land protector Darlene Gilbert.

Another video posted to social media seems to show an officer using his bicycle to push a woman sitting on the pavement, and telling her to stand up. In another video, she can be seen standing up and turning her back to the officer, and he is seen pushing the handlebars of his bicycle into her lower back.


Man speaks out on what he calls ‘utter brutality’ from Halifax police | (5)

Submitted video shows Halifax police interaction with protesters at Eisner Cove

“It’s that type of, (what) I call ‘the Goon Squad’ activity in my letter to chief Kinsella,” Zebedee said.This was the final wake-up call, he said.

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“I was sitting back helping the police get the criminals … while at the same time, I was protecting those who were getting away with doing crimes like assaulting citizens for absolutely no reason,” he said.

Zebedee said he ripped his 10-year plaque from his wall on Thursday morning, which had been given to him by previous HRP police chief Jean-Michel Blais, and sent the open letter to Kinsella.

— Bill Zebedee (He/Him) (@Bill_Zebedee) September 8, 2022

In the letter, Zebedee said there are decent officers in the city force, but they are silenced.

“The utter brutality of the officers under your command is palpable Chief, and they do it without discipline. All under the guise they do it as part of their duties as police officers. Bullsh–t Chief Kinsella. They do it because they know they will get away with it,” the letter read.

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HRP spokesperson John MacLeod did not address a question about Tuesday’s incident. He did not answer a question about police silencing.

“If anyone has any concerns with the actions of our officers we encourage them to contact our Professional Standards Branch,” MacLeod wrote in an email. That contact is available on the city’s website.

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Zebedee said the open letter was the hardest letter he’s had to write in the last two decades.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into the Neighborhood Watch,” he said.

What I hope from the police is accountability. There are less violent ways to deal with protesters … We’re not allowed to protect ourselves against the violence the police are perpetrating on us.”

He said he’s not sure if he’s expecting a response to his letter, but he has no regrets sending it.

I just hope that the police chief and the police commissioner pay attention to it, and do something about it before more people are … tackled and having their head smashed against the pavement.”

HRP has also not responded to a follow-up request for a comment on the video from Tuesday’s Eisner Cove protest. In a 3:50 p.m. tweet, however, police said they will look into the incident.

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Halifax Regional Police is aware of a social media video clip involving our officers in relation to an incident that occurred at a construction site in Dartmouth on September 6. We can confirm that follow up steps are being taken to look into the incident.

— Halifax_Police (@HfxRegPolice) September 9, 2022


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