2020-08-26

Noose swinging incident alarms biracial couple

by Keith Corcoran

A noose-dangling incident in Chester Basin was "blatant racism and implied violence," says the municipality in which the act occurred, while a mayor in another South Shore town is happy to see public condemnation of what he calls an "act of hate."

"We want residents and visitors to know that we do not, in any way whatsoever, support discriminatory behaviour," the Municipality of Chester said in a social media post in response to what happened August 15 to a biracial Halifax couple, Greg Dean and Cyndi Rafuse, who visited Hutt Lake with their two children. Dean and the couple's nine-year-old son are Black. Rafuse and their other son, a teenager, are Caucasian.

"[A]ll residents and visitors to our beautiful, vibrant, and diverse communities should feel safe, free, and welcome to enjoy themselves without the threat of violence or overtones of racism," the online statement reads, responding to publicity surrounding a matter "that described blatant racism and implied violence."

"Our message is clear," the statement goes on, "discrimination is wrong."

Rafuse took to social media to explain what happened during what was a camping trip with other families.

She said two people got out of a Ford Ranger at the Lower Grant Road beach, stared at her and Dean, and "later they began swinging a home made noose and passing it back and forth." Rafuse also saw a "mini noose" hanging from a rear-view mirror.

"I'm putting stuff in my trunk and I asked the guy if there was a problem, and he said, 'There might be'," Rafuse told CTV News.

Dean "is now standing beside me and calmly tells this guy that it's not to [sic] late for him to turn his life around," Rafuse explained on social media. Dean "explains to this racist human being that he [is] a black man, is a good person as I stand there looking at all of these white guys and girls who just threatened my family," Rafuse explained.

The matter was " a direct threat to my colour, the colour of my skin," Dean told CBC News. "Who I am as a person, it has nothing to do with me. That was a threat because I am a Black man, a visible Black man."

At some point during the interaction, Dean's teenage stepson found a beer bottle on the ground and threw it at the Ranger. "He smashed the bottle on the truck," Dean told The Chronicle Herald. "I told him it was wrong and that he can't act that way when people act this way, but I'm not going to discipline him."

RCMP were notified about a disturbance at the beach, and showed up the next morning, August 16. Rafuse, on social media, said a police officer informed them "that the guys told him we were a bunch of black guys and that we damaged his truck."

While police may, or may not, charge Dean's stepson with an offence, it seems the young men behind the noose incident won't be punished criminally.

RCMP "told me they couldn't press charges," Dean explained to CTV News. "His exact words was, 'Being racist is not a crime.' But I said, 'Waving a noose at someone is a threat, that's a hate crime.' The police officer told me it wasn't, because he didn't inferably say anything to me."

A section in the Criminal Code of Canada deals with wilful promotion of hate, but it's an allegation not prosecuted often. An editor and publisher of a Toronto area publication were sentenced last summer for the crime. The outlet's content included stories and pictures promoting hate against women and Jews.

Meanwhile, Dean and Rafuse said they appreciate the show of support since their story went public.

"I am pleased to see so many condemning this act of hate," said Bridgewater's mayor, David Mitchell, in a social media post. "We must ensure we are inclusive and welcoming. We must not tolerate these actions. If we stand together, side by side with people of colour, our LGBTQ+ community and others, the message we send that we won't tolerate these actions, will be strong and unwavering."

Another supporter has organized a Black Lives Matter picnic at Hutt Lake on August 30, starting at 3 p.m.

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