Special Report: Extremism

Right-Wing Extremism Not Just a 'Saturday Thing'

The creative response of the businesses on Ottawa Street was impressive, but why should they have to divide their time between serving their customers and shaming Nazis?

By Laura Babcock and Graham Crawford
Published August 28, 2019

Dear Councillors and Mayor,

Thank you for receiving our Open Letter of August 14, 2019, both personally (via personal email responses) and officially (via notice from the Clerk).

The challenges faced by our marginalized communities, including the 2SLGBTQ+ community, continue in Hamilton. The hate we have seen displayed in the forecourt of our City Hall by Yellow Vesters and their supporters is disturbing to many Hamiltonians. We believe that is why so many residents have attended the counter-rallies on Saturdays.

We wish to thank those Councillors who have attended on multiple Saturdays and led the charge against hate in Hamilton: Brad Clark, Maureen Wilson, Nrinder Nann and JP Danko. We acknowledge Mayor Eisenberger and Councillors Partridge, Farr, Whitehead, and Pauls for attending a rally. Councillors Jackson and Vanderbeek have sent their condolences because of previous commitments.

More must be done.

This is not just a "Saturday thing". This is a daily issue for many Hamiltonians who are members of marginalized communities. For too many, getting on a bus, walking home, going shopping, to the library, or to a movie, are simple actions where hate can be present.

As recently as this past Saturday, August 24, Yellow Vesters commandeered the corner of Cannon and Ottawa Street. It was through the quick actions of business owners that the alt-right protestors were made to feel unwelcome. They may have moved from the City Hall forecourt due to public pressure for the time being, but they have not stopped their hate-filled protests in our City.

The creative response of the businesses on Ottawa Street was impressive, but why should they have to divide their time between serving their customers and shaming Nazis?

Why weren't police and the City protecting people on Ottawa Street when the location of the Yellow Vest group was immediately and widely shared on social media?

Why are members of the 2SLGTBQ+ still being arrested, and yet the driver of the Hate Bus and members of the group that harassed citizens on Saturday are not?

People who are monitoring the websites and Facebook pages of the alt-right group report deeply troubling content. This hatred runs deep. And wider than we might think.

We acknowledge, via correspondence from the Clerk, that the City of Hamilton has requested the Corporate Security Specialist provide information as to who would be available to residents, at City Hall on Saturdays, to advise them how and to whom they should report incidents of hate on City property, and report back to the General Issues Committee. We thank you for that action.

Additionally, we respectfully ask for an update the third request that we included in our original Open Letter of August 14, 2019. Specifically: Please ensure the City's new consultant, hired to deal with hate, report directly to the City Manager so the community is reassured that this role is of critical importance to the City and not merely a public relations exercise. No other reporting structure will suffice.

Finally, we request that the Hamilton Police Service Board request a public update from the Chief as to the plans he and the HPS have in place to deal with these additional alt-right protests now showing up in our business areas (i.e. Ottawa Street and Downtown/Gore Park).

We look forward to seeing all of you at a rally this Saturday in the forecourt and to receiving an update from you about our request. We must learn from this summer of hate and work together with urgency to end hate in our city.


Laura Babcock and Graham Crawford

Laura Babcock is President and Owner of POWERGROUP Communications Inc, a national communications firm providing branding strategies, corporate communications, professional development training, and multimedia products since 1999.

Graham Crawford was raised in Hamilton, moving to Toronto in 1980 where he spent 25 years as the owner of a successful management consulting firm that he sold in 2000. He retired and moved back to Hamilton in 2005 and became involved in heritage and neighbourhood issues. He opened Hamilton HIStory + HERitage on James North in 2007, a multi-media exhibition space (aka a storefront museum) celebrating the lives of the men and women who have helped to shape the City of Hamilton.

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By Rabbitupnorth (registered) | Posted September 02, 2019 at 09:54:47

It is deeply disturbing that we have no leadership in the City of Hamilton. The Mayor makes mealy mouth statements. The police Chief seeks first to protect the police service before upholding his mandate to protect the public. The only real leadership comes from the community itself.

Pride day was disrupted by hate groups, yet police were not only not present at the event, but slow to react, and when they did they proceeded against community members protesting the neo-Nazis, not against the hatemongers.

The yellow vests gather with impunity at city hall every week, even driving a bus onto the sidewalk in front of city hall. Anybody else would get arrested, but the cops just had a friendly chat and suggested he park elsewhere. Then they arrest a community member who was dancing in protest to the hate group. It's all so upside down.

Why are police taking sides against the community? Why is the Mayor so wishy-washy? Why is Hamilton getting a national reputation for being a hate capital? Where is City Council in dealing with a major civic crisis?

I'm deeply disillusioned and disappointed by the lack of a swift and effective response from the Mayor, the City Council and the police Chief, but hearted that our community has people like Graham Crawford to speak out on its behalf.

I do acknowledge that faced with growing negative publicity, the mayor and police chief are slowly taking small steps to start the process of dealing with the huge crisis of confidence on their hands.

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