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Six labour protesters have been released from custody after being arrested Sunday evening outside a Canada Post sorting facility in Halifax.
The six men, all from Halifax, were arraigned before Judge Ann Marie Simmons in Halifax provincial court Monday afternoon.
They were each charged with obstructing police and mischief: Tony William Tracy, 50, a prominent trade unionist; Art Sebastian Bouman, 27; Brad Vaughan Fougere, 32; Austin Alexander Hiltz, 24; Darius Mirshahi, 34; and Justin Taylor Whitten, 20.
HALIFAX: Almon Street #CanadaPost postal sorting plant.— Tony Tracy (@Tony_Tracy) December 2, 2018
We are here for the long haul.
JOIN COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND ALLIES NOW at all gates.#NSpoli #canlab #CanadaPost #1u #CUPW #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/1LBjtlsXNE
Labour supporters are targeting Canada Post facilities across the country after the federal government legislated striking postal workers back to work.
In a statement Sunday night, Halifax Regional Police said protesters on the Monaghan Drive side of the sorting facility posed “a serious public safety threat” and didn’t comply with officers’ attempts to disperse them.
Police said they responded to reports that several vehicles were clogging Monaghan Drive, “impacting two-way traffic.”
In a tweet Sunday night, Canada Post said: “We can confirm individuals are illegally obstructing the movement of mail and parcels at our plant at 6175 Almon St. in Halifax. ... We’ll continue to take appropriate action to address illegal activity impacting the collection and delivery of mail and parcels.”
We can confirm individuals are illegally obstructing the movement of mail and parcels at our plant at 6175 Almon St. in Halifax, NS. We’ll continue to take appropriate action to address illegal activity impacting the collection and delivery of mail and parcels.— Canada Post (@canadapostcorp) November 30, 2018
The postal corporation has put out similar tweets about protests in Ontario and Alberta and has called police on at least two occasions.
Suzanne MacNeil, who is president of the Halifax Labour Council and took part in the protest, questioned how Monaghan Drive traffic could have been disrupted since it’s a dead-end street.
“It’s always a concern when police act in this way when workers are trying to make a point and trying to address the rights we were trying to fight for,” MacNeil, who is married to Tony Tracy, told reporters at provincial court after the arraignments.
“I didn’t see any obvious reason why those particular people were arrested, it probably could have been any of us at the plant.”
In its news release Sunday, Halifax Regional Police said it “respects and upholds the right of citizens for peaceful and safe protest” and that officers acted in the interest of public safety.
Asked how she was dealing with her husband being jailed, MacNeil was stoic.
“There is a long history of union workers doing what they need to do to defend our rights.”
In a Facebook post late Monday afternoon after his release, Tracy said, “We are all fine, in good spirits and good health. ... It was heartwarming this afternoon to see a courtroom packed with friendly and familiar faces of many dear friends and comrades. That support was extraordinary appreciated by us all.”
Tracy said the right to full and fair collective bargaining is “always worth defending. Bosses and governments have never given us rights that we haven’t fought for, and those ‘rights’ are meaningless if not defended.”
He and his five co-accused are scheduled to return to Halifax provincial court Jan. 4. Their release came with conditions that they keep the peace, obey directives to appear in court and stay at least 100 metres away from Canada Post facilities, except when they’re sending or receiving personal mail.