Activism

No Harbour For War protests Halifax International Security Forum

Demonstrators outside event speak out against imperialism, war

Allan Bezanson (centre) speaks at the protest under the statue of Edward Cornwallis.
Allan Bezanson (centre) speaks at the protest under the statue of Edward Cornwallis.   John Sandham

A small, but enthusiastic group of anti-war activists protested the 8th annual Halifax International Security Forum at Cornwallis Park in Halifax on Saturday.

The Security Forum is being held this weekend at the Westin Nova Scotian hotel. It brings global security leaders to Nova Scotia’s capital to discuss issues such as Syria, NATO and climate change.

Isaac Saney, a professor at both Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University, told fellow protesters that they “are fighting for a world that will be fit not only for us, but for those who come after us.”

Saney called those participating in the Forum “warmongers” who gather in the city “under the guise of peace.”

The protest, organized by the group No Harbour For War, was also attended by former Halifax poet laureate El Jones, former Marxist-Leninist party candidate Allan Bezanson and Mi’kmaq elder Billy Lewis.

Covering Cornwallis

The atmosphere was tense even before the protest began, as a police officer attempted to stop demonstrators from wrapping the statue of Edward Cornwallis, founder of Halifax, with sheets. Cornwallis is known for his government’s bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps.

Brad Fougere, one of the two people who wrapped the statue, said the police seemed “more concerned with the integrity of (Cornwallis’) violent colonial legacy than with our democratic right to challenge that colonial legacy.”

The sheets covering Cornwallis stayed in place throughout the protest as police watched from the sidelines.

The police presence at the protest was something Saney denounced in an interview after his speech.

“It’s a show of force to intimidate us,” he said. “We are seen as a threat, while the threats are in the Westin hotel.”

As the protest got underway, those inside the hotel were attending a session entitled, “Because Syria: I’m Your Friendly Neighborhood Terrorist.” Speakers for the session included U.S. senator and former presidential candidate John McCain.

Anti-war activists outside the Westin hotel Saturday afternoon.
Anti-war activists stand outside the Westin hotel Saturday afternoon.   John Sandham

Musicians shouted, “drop beats, not bombs” to energize the crowd, who braved the rain for the demonstration. As activists took their turns speaking to the crowd, rumblings of “shame” could occasionally be heard from protesters.

As the protest ended, demonstrators reiterated their commitment to protest next year’s security forum as well.

“If it happens,” shouted one hopeful person.

Credit: Thomas Cobbett Labonté