The Halifax Regional Police Force of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada is facing serious criticism after pepper spraying a young girl during a protest on Wednesday.
The protest was in response to Halifax police forcibly evicting a group of houseless people from their encampments in Halifax city parks.
Police had reportedly been forcing the houseless out of their tents and handing out fines to them if they didn't comply.
Victims of the displacement expressed fear of the Halifax police and said they complied to avoid being brutalized by police officers.
Many people felt the police were being harsh by forcing the homeless out of their encampments without offering them a realistic alternative, a place to go or referring them to any services that may be of use to them.
Subsequently, a protest was organized in Halifax on behalf of the homeless victims.
Reportedly, the protest was peaceful until Halifax police arrested a man who was sitting on top of a shelter to prevent police from removing it. This arrest led to protesters becoming outraged.
Halifax Examiner reporter Zane Woodford was at the protest, interviewing protesters and documenting the event. When Halifax police gathered to try to disperse the protesters, Zane filmed the conflict.
During the attempted dispersal of protesters, an officer was seen deploying OC spray, or pepper spray, and using it on a 10-year-old girl.
Zane caught this on film and uploaded it to his Twitter account, which led to the video going viral and sparking outrage on the forum over police brutality.
Watch the coverage here:
As it turns out, the 10 year-old victim, Lennita Fagan, was not even part of the protest to begin with.
In an interview with Global News, the Fagan family recounted their experience.
Fagan and her father, George Fagan, had been out on a walk to the park, simply enjoying a day out together. When they reached the park they saw the protest but didn't get involved.
"My plan was to go to the park, where I go all the time. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time."
When the protest started elevating into a conflict with the police, George decided it would be best for him and his daughter to leave the park to avoid getting caught in the middle of the conflict.
Unfortunately, the Fagan family was not able to get out of the conflict, as streets had been blocked off. They could only attempt to escape through a line of riot police.
Lennita got shoved by an officer and the family was separated for a short time. During this time, George heard someone shouting a child had been pepper-sprayed.
"I lost my sh-t. I think any parent would have lost their sh-t."
"What, is my kid a threat? My kid is now a threat to the community? My 10-year-old child is a threat?"
Lennita said of the experience:
"I was scared, I was terrified because I didn't know what was going on."
"That was the scariest day of my life."
She went on to describe the sensation of being pepper-sprayed.
"It felt like an onion going in my eye, because it burned really bad."
After Lennita was pepper-sprayed, George began shouting at the police officer.
"You maced my kid, you maced a f–ing 10-year-old."
George ran to attend to his daughter and was also pepper-sprayed by police.
With Zane's video going viral, the Twitter community is expressing their outrage over the incident.
In the interview, George said he and his daughter have recovered from their injuries, which included George losing his sight for a short time. They both felt like they had "an extreme, bad sunburn" on their faces.
George said of the experience:
"We were going to do what we do together, as a father and daughter. Apparently, we got maced together as a father and daughter."
He then sarcastically remarked:
"Well, there's one off the bucket list."
At this time, Halifax police have not taken responsibility for the incident, but rather insisted the "assaultive" protesters forced their hand in escalating the conflict.
During a press conference on Thursday, Halifax Regional Police chief Dan Kinsella said:
"Officers at the scene were faced with many complexities and the deployment of the sensory irritant is on the scale of use-of-force options that are available, just below certain things that are much more intrusive and could potentially cause further injury to people."
Kinsella said he believes the use of force was justified, but the incident will be further examined.
Fagan, however, does not believe justice has been done.
"I don't even want an apology. I want him to lose his job."
"I'm not letting this go. This was wrong."