Halifax Regional Police arrested 24 people in connection with a protest on Wednesday against the city's decision to remove a series of homeless encampments.
Those arrested face charges including resisting arrest, mischief, obstruction and assaulting police, Chief Dan Kinsella told reporters Thursday, adding they were released Wednesday evening with a promise to appear in court.
"They were in a very complex and difficult situation and responded to the best of their abilities with what they had under the circumstances," Kinsella said of the officers who were deployed to a lawn outside the old Halifax central library site in the city's downtown.
Kinsella said the decision to remove the shelters on that site was made after police had received several complaints of theft, indecent acts and domestic disputes from residents who lived near the encampments. Shelters erected in two other parts of the city were also removed by police Wednesday.
Groups of peaceful protesters had gathered around two shelters at the downtown site Wednesday morning. One man sat atop a wooden shelter constructed by an advocacy group for the homeless, and a police negotiator tried to talk him down while the crowd was held back by a cordon of officers.
The situation escalated after the man was taken away by police and officers began spraying people with irritants while some protesters threw water bottles at officers and their vehicles, Kinsella said. Some of the protesters were "assaultive," he added.
Supt. Andrew Matthews, lead of the operation, told reporters that officers are expected to justify their use of irritants to control crowds, adding that the force plans to investigate the use of the irritants.
"This was a rapidly evolving and fluid situation," Kinsella said. "Officers were in the process of containing a situation and establishing an operational parameter. This was to allow for the safe removal of temporary dwellings that were in fact illegal."
The police chief said people who were using the shelters were offered housing options but did not confirm if any of the individuals took that offer.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press