Occupy N.S. protesters file complaints against police
Police remove tents at the Occupy Nova Scotia camp in Halifax on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, December 2, 2011 9:53PM EST
HALIFAX - Occupy Nova Scotia protesters have filed formal complaints against Halifax police, alleging officers used excessive force during their Nov. 11 eviction from a downtown park.
The group claims officers dislocated one member's shoulder, bruised the ribs of another and caused a seizure when the protesters were ousted from Victoria Park.
"This is the first of many steps that we're taking to stake our claim to a legitimate form of protest," Ian Matheson, legal spokesman for Occupy Nova Scotia members, said Friday.
Matheson said more than a dozen people filed the complaints, which range from allegations of excessive force and intimidation to a "complete lack of respect" in the ouster.
They couldn't name individual officers as none wore their name tags during the incident, he said.
Central to the group's legal strategy is the assertion that police should have issued them tickets to leave, as opposed to forcibly taking down their tents, said Matheson.
Protesters are using legal aid to launch charter arguments over the fact some have now become homeless because of the ouster, he said.
A Halifax Regional Police spokesman confirmed Friday the department had received multiple complaints and said they'd be sent to its internal professional standards office.
"An investigation will be carried out into each complaint, which will require us to potentially interview people or review any evidence that's provided," said Const. Brian Palmeter.
A decision as to whether any violations occurred will then be forwarded to the provincial police commission, he said. "They will be made aware of the complaints and will be apprised of the investigation and the outcome."
The complainants will have a chance to appeal should they disagree with the findings, Palmeter said. "We'll allow the process to unfold as it should."
Police Chief Frank Beazley defended the officers' actions.
He said in an interview Friday that his officers acted appropriately during the incident, adding public safety was paramount in the decision to remove tents from Victoria Park.
Beazley said he wanted to respect veterans observing Remembrance Day ceremonies so officers did not make any moves until well after the events were over.
Matheson's group is watching the civil outcomes of cases across Canada as it weighs its future charter challenges. It also has not given up searching for alternate sites for its next encampment, he said.