Back then there wasn’t much you could do if you saw something unfair. I knew one guy who was dragged out of a bar in Ottawa and beat into the hospital. I still remember coming out just when that final kick hit him in the head. It’s still hard to remember how filled with joy the kicker was. He was smiling like he was at the fair.
Fortunately the police arrived and came with me down the street so I cold point the asshole out. They even took my statement as well as statements from other bar patrons who saw what happened. Charges were filled in that case but my friend was never really the same. I wish I had done more but it all happened so fast I had no time to think. Bar fights are like that.
The difference between fights back then and fights today isn’t found in the blood on the street or in the drunk tanks and hospitals. Back then you saw it or you never knew it happened unless someone died or was seriously injured and it made the news. Today you know, even if you haven’t been out on the town in years.
It doesn’t take long for stories to spread anymore. Gone are the days of telling a friend who told a friend who told a friend. Now a post is shared and a Tweet reTweeted hundreds or even thousands of times. In minutes.
One such story happened here in Halifax Saturday night. John Wesley Chisholm, a local musician, headed downtown “to the bar to see the great house band, support the scene and meet some friends. A typical Saturday night.” You can read his sad turn of events in the article he wrote: Hello City – We have a violence problem. In a nut shell Chisholm saw some kid get beat up by a bouncer over nothing and the violence left him shaken. Rightly so.
His story doesn’t end there though. Violence in the downtown Halifax bar area has been an issue since I moved here in 1981 and it hasn’t gotten much better. You’d think if an assault occurred and there were witnesses present the police would want to talk to them. But apparently when it’s a bouncer being fingered they take a different approach.
Chisholm says once the police showed up one constable “starts to cuff the kid before any words are even spoken. It’s obvious he has some connection with the bouncer. He puts the kid in the police car” before he “goes and confers at length with the bouncer. We have to insist on speaking. The girl, crying and soaked says she’s been assaulted, which she was, and I state that I would bear independent witness to that. The constable has no interest.”
This is a problem. A man and a woman were assaulted. There are witnesses and they want to talk but rather than gather statements and try to figure out what happened an officer that started to speak to Chisholm turns “around my statement about what I’ve seen, pressing the point that the bouncer has to defend himself, he’s in a dangerous situation, he’s allowed to use as much force as is necessary based on his personal perception of the situation. She knows nothing about what happened. She’s defensive. I remind her, I don’t drink.
“I suggest to her she’s not listening to me; she’s arguing. She insists that I just have to understand – this is the way it is, she wishes it were different but this is it. I ask them if they will take my statement. They decline. I tell them both, again, that I am willing to be witness to the assaults. But they won’t take my name or number.”
I know policing is a hard job and I can only imagine the frustration that goes along with dealing with the drunks downtown every weekend but that is a part of the work they do. There is just no excuse for not wanting to listen to what people have to say about an assault they witnessed. Not doing so only adds to the problem and further down the road people will see something happen and think it’s not worth the bother to report what they saw because the police don’t care. That would be a damn shame.
John’s story was picked up very quickly here in Halifax where enough people know enough people to make a story hit the front pages. He was interviewed today by at least three media outlets and meet with the police and the owner of The Carleton (the bar in question). His words on Facebook have been shared almost 2,500 times and hundreds of people have commented about it. It’s also been reTweeted over and over by the people here in Halifax.
Hopefully this will make a difference. Or at least get people thinking about their actions a little more. We can all know what happened downtown on any given day. We’re all connected in some way.
In an interview with the Chronicle Herald Chisholm states that he was very surprised by the attention his story has generated.
“I think what I wrote became a lightning rod for all those people to say, ‘Yeah, I did see this and it really bothered me and I don’t even understand what I saw but I’m upset.’”