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Witness to Incident Flames the Local Social

There has been a local story that has really taken hold here in the port city. Halifax has always been a rough town. With a large number of late night drinking establishments, a large contingent of students and a local population that has a history of somewhat an affinity for the drink, this story is certainly one that resonates. Before I add to this story from a social media perspective, let me give you a quick run down.

February 16: Local resident, business owner, filmmaker, musician and public policy advocate, John Wesley Chisholm witnesses an incident outside the Halifax music bar The Carleton and posts his complaint about the conduct of the bouncer and the subsequent non action of the officers at the scene.

February 18: The Halifax Herald releases a story about the post garnering attention.

February 18: The Halifax police release a statement that the are reviewing the matter and “is in the process of reaching out to Mr. Chisholm, the patron, the Carleton and the officers involved.”

February 19: Haligonia.ca on Facebook posted the The Carleton releases their take on the incident on Saturday via their Facebook page, with a response from John Wesley Chisholm below.

February 19: Chisholm had to remove the original post because of a flame war. “I had to take the Fbook thread on violence down because I couldn’t continue to moderate… it was getting too violent. I just clicked it off. It’s not erased and HRP and everyone else who’s asked has a copy.”

February 20: The amount of stories related to news coverage of the story grows on a Google search for “chisholm police carleton“.

The Facebook page for the police also gets complaints about censorship, but is quickly responded to by the admins of the page.


So to weigh in here are my thoughts. First off, I am not taking any side other than to reiterate the logical ideology that violence in any form is wrong, but the solutions are complex as is the problem of late night violence related to alcohol mixed with crowds and close proximity.

Why did this story explode over Facebook? As I mentioned it is something that resonates with the community and as a result when Chisholm posted his feelings on the incident and the issue of violence, his large number of Facebook friends agreed and shared. Then others shared. Then it became a bit of a story. The thing that I noticed was that the police reacted to this post rather than a complaint directly. This was an interesting turn of events. One might think that Facebook does not work to solve issues or promote issues or create awareness with authorities as they may lean on traditional forms of communications – an official complaint per se.

One only has to remember the Arab Spring in 2011 to remember that Facebook does indeed raise awareness and action. By individuals and authorities. The police in this case were correct to respond quickly not only on their page, but in an official release stating they will look into the matter.

While this is an ongoing story, the real meat of what is happening can be followed on Facebook. Other outlets such as news sites are simply reporting the story. The source of their material is chiefly found on Facebook and that to me is an interesting departure from the past.



It may very well be that Chisholm could have sent a letter to the local paper. Would it have been printed? Let’s say yes. Would the police then have responded in the paper? Would they have released a press release so quickly saying they are looking into the matter? Let’s say yes to that too. The difference is that through that medium, it would have taken many days of letters to the editor, stories and more awareness before any official – if at all – statement from the police would have been made in a non-social media world.



So with social media, stories have a way of growing quickly. The actual story in social media can be the source for media coverage about the information in the story, but also the story of the reach and quick dissertation of the message is also a story in itself.

While Chisholm hid and archived his post and makes it available when asked due to an explosion of flames, and the police continue to respond on their page, it is interesting here that the one who might be censoring posts might well be The Carleton, as the Facebook group has no mention of the issue. In fact there has been no posts since February 12, or if there has, then they were removed. Perhaps it may not be the place for them to reach out as other pages are covering their statements – including the police Facebook page.

Not sure what the lesson here is if any. I was however struck with the role that social media has contributed to raising (ah yes yet again) awareness of late night violence in Halifax.

For my part, I still will frequent The Carleton, which is owned by a good friend (as is John Wesley Chisholm). And yes that is a Carleton shirt I am wearing on this blog’s about page.

Update February 20: Chisholm has posted an update in his notes in which he talks about the start of converstation. Only with social media could the parties involved have reached out and interacted with so many people:

HRP, Mike Campbell and I have talked to thousands of people over the last three days. Everyone agrees there is a problem. I’ve drawn up a list of their top suggestions on how to make things better and passed it on to the Leaders of our political community.