Friends, family and supporters of the four boys allegedly involved in the Rehtaeh Parsons case have taken their voice to the streets of Halifax.
Bright, multi-coloured posters saying, “Speak the truth. There’s two sides to every story. Listen before you judge. The truth will come out. Stay strong and support the boys,” have gone up in neighbourhoods around Halifax, including in the area around Rehtaeh’s mother's house.
On April 7, Rehtaeh, 17, was taken off life support after trying to take her own life a few days earlier. She was buried on Saturday.
According to Parsons' mother, four boys sexually assaulted her daughter when she was 15. Rehtaeh was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at her school and on social media. Police investigated, but no charges were ever laid.
Jason Barnes, Rehtaeh’s stepfather, said he first noticed the posters in his neighbourhood Wednesday morning, stapled to telephone poles on his street.
By the time Barnes returned home from driving his other children to school, someone had torn the posters down and thrown them in the garbage.
Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, fired back at the posters on the Facebook page she set up to honour her daughter's memory.
“This is our street, we are mourning our daughter, my children live in this neighbourhood. If you wanted to speak the truth ... why didn't you speak when Rehtaeh was alive ... you push her to suicide then you continue with this bullshit!!! Really???? You have no compassion ... but we knew that already,” Parsons wrote.
Barnes said this was extremely upsetting to the family. He said they called police to complain but they told him there was nothing they could do.
Halifax RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said putting up posters such as these may be disrespectful, but it’s not a criminal offence.
Facebook group supporting boys removed
A Facebook group set up in support of the boys accused of sexual assault was shut down on Monday after police raised concerns.
The Facebook group was called Speak the Truth. On the page, friends and family posted messages of support for the teenagers saying what happened that night was consensual.
Some posts named at least one of the boys.
The group had grown to almost 130 members when early Monday afternoon the curator shut it down.
The curator wrote, “Sorry guys but I'm taking down the support group because the police have asked that it be removed due to the fact this is ‘cause names to get leaked out and spread around.”
The members of the group were mainly friends of the boys but there were also adults that lent their support.
“Chin up boys, truth will prevail. My heart goes out to Rehtaeh who felt she had to take her own life to end her misery but I believe this is ‘cause of the bullying she endured,” read one posting.
Another read, “One thing that came out of this support group, the boys can actually see who would be there for them, and that’s all of us.”
Police confirmed they spoke to the woman who started the group and expressed concerns for the boys’ safety if their names got out.
Police suggested the family might want to reconsider the idea of a Facebook group, but said they did not tell them to shut it down.
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