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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Blockade sparked by racism allegations ends near Halifax (Canada)

A blockade set up by more than two dozen protesters amid allegations of racism ended Tuesday on a rural road east of Halifax.

The blockade began Monday when some protesters alleged that residents of North Preston, a predominantly black community, were being denied access to a shortcut around a nearby construction site.

The residents pointed out that a group of 10 white families living near the construction site at Lake Major had access to a private, former logging road to reach the nearest highway.

However, they said the 2,000 residents of North Preston — about five kilometres away — did not.

“This whole matter of preferential treatment was blown totally out of proportion and I'm discouraged that it did take the action that it did take,” said area councillor David Hendsbee.

The blockade ended around noon on Tuesday after the protesters met with Mr. Hendsbee, the mayor, business owners and the owners of the locked road.

Instead of opening up the shortcut to the protesters, Mr. Hendsbee said the road's owners decided to restrict access to everyone but themselves and emergency vehicles.

“The lock will be changed and those keys that some of the other local residents had in the area will no longer be operational,” he said.

The road, which Mr. Hendsbee said was too small to open up to North Preston traffic, will also be used as an emergency evacuation route, if needed.

Mr. Hendsbee said the white residents were initially given access because of where they live, not the colour of their skin.

He said about eight homeowners would no longer be able to use the shortcut, though he didn't expect that would be an issue.

“Only a few of them were using it ... they found it just as easy and convenient to use the North Preston detour, which I knew would be the case,” he said.

The protesters said North Preston residents have to use an unlit, partially paved road to reach the highway, which has raised safety concerns.

Mr. Hendsbee said those issues rest with the province and Nova Scotia Power.

The detour is expected to be in place until Sept. 2, he said.

The Globe and Mail