What I saw and heard continue to make me question the judgment used in dealing with marginalized communities by Hamilton Police.
By Graham Crawford
Published August 12, 2019
Saturday, August 10: what a day.
Attendees at the rally against hate on August 10, 2019 (Image Credit: Sean Dowling)
I met a man who stands against hate every Saturday in the City Hall forecourt, despite the haters not only literally spitting on his two children as they held signs about love, but also being told by haters that they would kill his children. Consider that for a moment.
I saw many familiar faces, young and older, from different communities, from all parts of the city, standing together against hate in Hamilton.
I was touched when I met a mother and father who had brought their five children to stand, as a family, against hate.
I saw Councillors who had been there before, continuing to demonstrate their leadership: Maureen Wilson, Nrinder Nann, and Brad Clark.
I saw Councillors who joined the crowd for the first time - and, I trust not the last - in solidarity: Judi Partridge and Jason Farr.
Although I did not see him, Mayor Fred Eisenberger was there for a short time to show his support. It's a step in the right direction.
I watched as a hater drove a school bus onto the sidewalk in front of City Hall where people were standing, and parked it there as police negotiated with him for 45 minutes until he agreed to move the bus, parking it illegally in the back parking lot of City Hall.
This same driver was one of the most vocal haters when he joined the handful of other Yellow Vests in front of City Hall.
Police speak calmly with the driver of a school bus driven by a fascist onto the sidewalk at the anti-hate rally in front of City Hall on August 10, 2019 (Image Credit: Cameron Kroetsch)
I questioned police officers as to why they seemed to be standing around the haters with their backs to them, which I said sends a message that they are protecting them and watching us. I was told they would not discuss tactics with me, shutting me down and turning away.
I called the police on this behaviour, saying that I hoped they were not shutting me down, because it felt very much like they were. They assured me that was not their intention, but there was no mistake in my mind that it was.
I watched as at least eight police officers moved in with an extreme show of force to arrest a young man from our group who had been dancing in the crosswalk when cars had stopped for the red light and who was brave enough to go up to and confront the haters.
Police arresting counter-protester (Image Credit: Still from video recording by Ben Nelson)
The police threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. When I asked the officer I had spoken with earlier, "Is this your strategy?", the officer said he would not discuss anything with me.
All of the officers who had been standing between the haters and our group left the scene and walked the young man to a waiting cruiser in the back parking lot, leaving the crowd unprotected. Two officers who had been standing under the shelter of the Council Chambers walked closer to the yellow vests, but remained about ten metres back.
Hamilton Police arresting Woody Boychuk at the August 10, 2019 rally against hate (Image Credit: Graham Crawford)
Then, five cruisers, three on Main Street and two at the rear parking lot of City Hall, arrived as they arrested the young man. He was charged with assault for resisting arrest.
Sadly, what I saw, what I heard, and what I was told by police, combined with what we have all seen and heard from the HPS, including from Chief Girt, continue to make me question the judgment used in dealing with marginalized communities by the HPS. All the more reason to continue to push, as Councillor Tom Jackson has done, for an independent investigation into police actions before, during and after Pride Day.
I was touched by so many birthday greetings, making this now senior citizen a very happy guy.
But most of all, I was inspired by the diversity evident in the crowd of people who had chosen to spend a few hours on a gorgeous Saturday in August standing together in front of the people's Hall to tell all who would listen that we stand united against hate.
There is much to do, by all Hamiltonians, to make this true. I commit to doing my part to help make it so. Be strong Hamilton.
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