Special Report: Anti-Racism

Defund Police Protest Threatens Fragile Ruling Class

Peaceful protest that makes our leaders uncomfortable is where leadership happens and that's what being in public life is about.

By Cameron Kroetsch
Published December 03, 2020

We need to start talking about white civility in Hamilton, and by we I mean every single white person in this town. All of us. We're allowing the political class in Hamilton to tell us that people are "unacceptable" and we can't go down this road.

White civility is not overt, like arrests and fines. It's a hidden transcript. It's a steady stream of coded signals from the white ruling class to the rest of us, a silent call if you will, for us to privately denounce political action because it's "not being done right".

More accurately, it's not being done in the way that the conventional white ruling class wants it to happen. They'd prefer ineffective, polite, civil discussion behind closed doors. Why? So they can continue to create a false image of their control over the situation.

They send these signals, and clutch their pearls, when they're losing control and don't know what else to do. And they're relying on every single person out there who knows the code to pick up the signals and follow along. It's subtle and it works.

It works because it lets us off the hook and allows us to latch onto a comfortable narrative that we know. Rather than having to contend with challenging concepts like defunding the police, we can just say, "I don't like that word" and turn our heads the other way.

In one fell swoop, the white ruling class has sent us the official signal that it's okay to disengage, to ignore what's happening, and to return to business as usual.

Well, I'm not falling for it, or the disgusting call to action in the pages of the Hamilton Spectator today (not sharing).

Public Silence, Private Control

But wait, there's more. There's a second part of this civil performance - silence. While the Mayor and his cronies cry "it's not fair" and "they're being mean" their supporters, inside and outside the ruling class, say absolutely nothing in public.

In private? They have lots to say and that's what these coded signals are meant to encourage and that's, in part, why having meetings in private will get us nowhere. The private realm is controlled by the ruling class because it cannot be seen or heard. There's no accountability.

What they do say publicly is carefully scripted, presented politely, and only spoken from their seats of power. All of that is meant to encourage other white folks that things are okay. It's meant to present a sense of calm and order in contrast to the incivility of protest.

And why is this most acute when it comes to trying to have conversations about police and policing? Because police are literally the only thing protecting the ruling class from having to break their powerful silence and face the consequences of their inaction.

If the police don't feel completely supported by the ruling class, literally carte blanche, they won't do the bidding of the ruling class. We've seen this in Hamilton a lot. We've all heard the rumours of how "certain neighbourhoods" are policed differently. They're not rumours.

Fragile Ruling Class

We saw it yesterday when the police were sent in to remove peaceful protestors because the Mayor, the Chair of the police board, didn't want to come down a flight of stairs to talk to Defund HPS organizers. Instead, he sent them a letter.

That's right. A letter. That's the most civil, white, ruling class thing to do in this situation and he did it to send that signal. It's the same reason he put out a press release saying that it was impossible to meet with organizers because "health and safety". Another signal.

What I see happening today is a struggle between a fragile ruling class who must rely on police because they can't lead and a strong community voice that is determined to hold them accountable.

I'm going to support any peaceful protest that makes our leaders uncomfortable. That's where leadership happens and that's what being in public life is about. Sadly, our leaders feel the opposite. It's their comfortability we're being asked to uphold, their right to take it easy and have it their way. No thanks. Not anymore.

Not while thousands of Hamiltonians suffer waiting years for access to safe and affordable housing. Not while members of oppressed communities continue to feel unsafe in our city. Hamiltonians actually do deserve better and are allowed to push for it.

Cameron Kroetsch (he/him) moved to Hamilton in 2014. He's a proud resident of Ward 2 and cares deeply about accountability and transparency in municipal government. He loves the sparrows at City Hall, his cats and dog, and his partner Derek.

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By ceesvang (registered) | Posted December 04, 2020 at 08:55:31

I particularly liked your line re: clutching their pearls and not knowing what else to do - please Cameron run (ward2) again and you will have my vote and the support of lots of people I know in ward 2

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By cameronkroetsch (registered) | Posted December 04, 2020 at 11:21:27 in reply to Comment 130674

Thanks so much for that feedback, and your offer of support. I truly appreciate it. I hope that many more Hamiltonians speak up about these issues and that this article spurs us to have more conversations with one another about the future we all deserve.

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