Published on Thursday, December 2, 2004 by the Halifax Herald (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Bush in Halifax: Thousands March in Peaceful Opposition
by Dan Arsenault and Barry Dorey
The fact thousands of protesters faced dozens of cops with not one person being arrested Wednesday had both sides calling Wednesday's protests in downtown Halifax a big success.
"I couldn't be happier," said Tamara Lorincz of the Halifax Peace Coalition, main organizer of the rally. "Look at how many people came out on the streets because they care."
She expected about 2,000 people would show their anger at American President George W. Bush's presence in Halifax, but police estimate 4,000 people showed up.
Ms. Lorincz praised police, saying they helped the protest go smoothly.
A Wednesday afternoon release signed by Halifax Regional Police Chief Frank Beazley and RCMP Supt. Vern Fraser praised drivers for their patience during traffic disruptions.
"We would also like to acknowledge the Halifax Peace Coalition and other organizers of the public demonstration for their support and co-operation in ensuring a peaceful event," they wrote.
Halifax's Grand Parade was the launch pad for the noisy rally.
Thousands of enthusiastic protesters, ranging from parents with bundled-up newborns to grannies with canes, milled about listening to speeches and music.
The throng grew shortly after 10 a.m., when hundreds of university students arrived to loud cheers from Saint Mary's, Dalhousie and other campuses. By the time protesters hit Barrington Street for the march to the main protest site by Pier 21, the chanting human convoy clogged six city blocks. Other protesters went to nearby Cornwallis Park for speeches and singing.
Wolfville's Bill O'Brien travelled with friends to Halifax for his first protest.
"I'm just amazed at the kind of energy that exists here with young people and old people. I'm glad to be part of it. I wish I had started 45 years ago."
He said he felt strongly about being part of the effort to send a message to the "smug jerk."
"He just can't influence the rest of the world with a sledgehammer."
At 11:05 a.m., the coalition's marchers arrived at Pier 21, where they joined about 500 protesters already stationed behind barricades on Marginal Road. On the other side of the barricade stood about 60 police officers wearing ball hats and body armour, with batons and gas masks strapped to their belts.
A few police dogs were among the officers, and sharpshooters were on the rooftops of three surrounding buildings. Officers handed protesters pamphlets advising them of their rights and the duties of police.
Some cops chatted with protesters across the two sets of fencing erected as barricades. Some posed for pictures, and one officer told bystanders that sharpshooters could use rifle scopes to count the freckles on someone's nose from 500 metres.
St. Agnes School student Kris Boudreau, 14, skipped morning classes to protest with his parent's permission.
"They don't like Bush either," he said.
The protest grew loudest at 11:15 a.m., when a motorcade of about 15 motorcycles, limousines, minivans and an armoured truck approached Pier 21 from the south side of Marginal Road.
Almost everyone booed or chanted "Bush go home," while a handful of supporters waved the Stars and Stripes. The motorcade didn't come within 150 metres of the protest site.
"I was expecting him to at least have the guts to go in the main entrance so that we could see him," Swedish-American NSCAD University student Sara Callahan said of Mr. Bush.
Many protesters soon left the area, hoping to disrupt traffic or encounter Mr. Bush's motorcade near Spring Garden Road. About 200 remained at the barricades when the motorcade left, and gave the far-off vehicles a second round of boos. They walked away, and police removed the barricades at 12:45 p.m.
Halifax filmmaker Jason Shipley called the event a success.
"I think we got our message across in a way that Nova Scotians wanted to, which is peacefully but forcefully."
Asked what that message is, he said it's about keeping Canadian values.
"They have to do with peace, they have to do with natural resources, they have to do with the social safety net."
Dalhousie student John Shiff, 18 of Ottawa carried an American flag during the event.
"I am a Jew. I believe that George Bush is the greatest thing that has happened to Israel. Without him, we wouldn't be anything."
He saw ugly things Wednesday, specifically a protester's American flag festooned with a Swastika.
"I saw those, and they just made me want to absolutely puke."
Bill Finbow of Dartmouth, the man carrying the flag, said he didn't want to offend Americans or descendants of those killed by the Nazis.
"I think it's the way the world properly perceives the American flag in its unbastardized form, given their domestic and foreign policy."
Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly said protesters and police deserve credit for a peaceful day.
"I think everybody did what they had to do without crossing the line."
The protesters that left Pier 21 marched to Spring Garden Road and South Park Street, where they blocked traffic for half an hour while banging drums and chanting. Police then moved the group of about 500, who gathered for another half-hour at Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street. After that, they moved to the Grand Parade, but dispersed soon after.
© 2004 Halifax Herald