U.S. President George W. Bush came to visit Halifax, Nova Scotia on
December 1, 2004. In sharp contrast to the friendly welcome accorded to
President Bill Clinton when he visited Halifax in 1995 for the
G7 economic conference, President Bush's controversial foreign
policy and war on Iraq had made him quite unpopular in Canada.
His visit would be short and well guarded. Extra
security was everywhere to be found like here, a kilometer away from
where he was to talk.
Demonstrations against the Bush Administration policies
were planned. The Halifax Peace Coalition
a group whose website is hosted by the Chebucto Community Net, called upon
people to come and bring their own signs for a protest march. This is
the gathering crowd in the Parade Square in front of city hall an hour before the
march down Barrington Street was to start.
The city hall crowd from another angle. It is clear that all
age groups are represented here and the protesters are not just
"students looking for a day off classes" as some critics of
the protest have claimed. Quite a few people turned out on this
grey and damp Wednesday morning.
"Martin Save Our Planet", a sign referring to Canada's Prime Minister
Paul Martin, gets my vote for biggest optimist of the protest. One of the
sentiments frequently expressed was that this protest was less for
President Bush, who frankly would pay no attention to it at all, and
more to show Canadian politicians that there are strong objections
to Canada following the U.S. foreign policy lead.
"Thank You America". A lone pro-Bush supporter, whose sign
was referring to the ostensible reason for President Bush's
visit to Canada, to thank Halifax for taking in stranded jet
passengers grounded after the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks. It is worth pointing out that immediately following
the attacks President Bush made a point of thanking many
countries for their assistance except for Canada, an omission
that had lasted three years.
One of the largest protest signs, meant to represent blood-stained
hands forming the letter 'W' and the famous one finger salute.
of the civilian
death toll in the Iraq conflict range from 13,000 to over 100,000. The
only sure fact is that it is unlikely the real figure will ever be known.
With more than half an hour to go before the march was to start,
Barrington Street was solid with arriving protesters.
Halifax Police Department are to be commended for their sensible
approach to the protest. Note that they are not dressed in riot gear
or behaving confrontationally toward the crowd. It is clear that both police
and protesters had learned lessons from the 2002 G7 meeting where police
had turned the downtown core into a war zone using stun guns, pepper spray and tear
gas on protesters who had pushed forward through metal barricades. By adopting a
more relaxed and accessible
attitude, Halifax Police played no small part in keeping things peaceful and
there were no arrests arising from the protest.