Everything has been happening so fast, it is difficult to stay on top of what has been going on with respect to Pride, fascism and the political response in Hamilton.
By Chris Farias
Published July 05, 2019
The tangled City Hall Pride Flag is an apt metaphor for the City's relationship with the LGBTQ+ community (RTH file photo)
As a prominent member of Hamilton's LGBTQ2S+ community, I have had a lot of questions from people who say they don't understand what has going on lately. And I think if they did, they would be supporting us. So here's a point-by-point recap. If I miss anything, fill in the blanks in the comments and I will update.
First, the Mayor of Hamilton was asked by his LGBTQ Advisory Committee to not put up Pride flags on City Hall because they have multiple concerns, including a Neo-Nazi employed at City Hall as an IT analyst.
The mayor ignored the request and put the flags up anyway, saying that the citizens deserve to know all the work he and the City have done for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Hamilton Police asked to have a recruitment booth at the Pride festival this year. The Pride committee said no, they can't have one, and they are not welcome at Pride in uniform since some members of the LGBTQ2S+ community feel threatened by the police (rightfully so).
The Pride committee proposed holding a community consultation about their formal participation as event partners - off-duty officers in uniforms and a recruitment booth - but the police did not get it together in time for that to happen before this year's Pride festival at Gage Park.
So the answer they got was "Not this year, we still need to do that consultation."
The police were briefed ahead of the event, so Pride did fully cooperate with them, as they would be expected to as the organizers of a festival. At no point did Pride say or do anything to suggest they didn't expect the police to do their job, or indicate that Pride would be angry at them for doing their job. This was 100 percent only about a recruitment booth, and police officers wearing their uniforms and guns if they were not on duty.
The Pride festival took place in Gage Park on June 15. A hate group called the "Yellow Vests" and an extremist, homophobic "Christian" group showed up to protest at the park. Anti-fascists intervened and used a large black screen to block the hate groups. A fight broke out between the two groups, with fascists punching, grabbing and shoving people and one fascist smashing people in the face with a helmet.
The Pride committee criticized the police for being slow to respond. In response, Hamilton Police chief Eric Girt publicly said that the police would have responded more quickly if they had been welcome as event partners at the Pride festival.
A week after the protest, the first arrest the police made was a trans activist who is on parole for an incident on Locke Street last year. At the time of the arrest, the police said they have evidence that this person was at Pride and was causing trouble, breaking their parole, but several credible witnesses who were there said the activist was not at the event at all.
Altogether, out of five people arrested so far, four were anti-fascists and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and only one was a fascist.
This provoked public outrage and the LGBTQ2S+ community pressured the Mayor to do something. The Mayor did not do anything, and instead suggested it was a "false narrative" to complain that the police were not responding appropriately.
At the June 26 Council meeting, one councillor blamed the LGBTQ2S+ community for what happened. The people attending the meeting were furious and shouted at the councillor. The Mayor stopped meeting, called security and police to have the angry community members removed, and was then seen high-fiving said Councillor as though it was a game that all played out according to plan.
In response, the LGBTQ2S+ community and allies took to social media to put more pressure the Mayor and the councillor. The councillor, on Twitter, threatened a reporter and the general public. Twitter suspended the councillor's account and the news agency filed a formal complaint with the City's Integrity Commissioner. The Mayor continued to insult people on Twitter.
Several organizations, including the AIDS Network, YWCA and Environment Hamilton issued statements that they stand with the LGBTQ2S+ community against hate.
On Friday, June 28, a group of protesters showed up at the Mayor's home early in the morning to put signs on his lawn, play flutes and steal his Canadian flag. The Mayor called the police, who arrested one protester and charged them with theft, criminal harassment, causing a disturbance and mischief. The Mayor went on television to accuse the protesters of being fake queers.
Yesterday, the first trans activist who was arrested had their parole hearing. Instead of presenting some kind of evidence that the activist had failed to keep the peace at the Pride festival, the police focused mainly on the activist's comments critical of the police at a June 18 public meeting organized by the LGBTQ Advisory Committee to hear people's concerns.
After ignoring the City's actual LGBTQ Advisory Committee, the Mayor then appointed a team of two community leaders to advise him on LFBTQ2S+ issues. The team says they want to have a private meeting meeting today with the community.
The The LGBTQ2S+ community have refused to attend the meeting, saying that the Mayor should consult with his appointed advisory committee. There are possible police attending this meeting of around ten people. No agenda is given. No one knows anything about this meeting except the Mayor and the two community members.
Meanwhile, this week the Hamilton Spectator published an opinion piece from a regular columnist that literally compared the activists who demonstrated in front of the Mayor's house to the KKK.
Everything has been happening so fast, but I think this is where we are at the moment. Let me know if I missed anything or got anything wrong.
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