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Labour Council says to the City and the Police: You have criminalized participation in PRIDE

June 24, 2019

Mayor Eisenberger, Councillor Jackson, and Information Department at the Hamilton Police Service,

(The following has been sent to the info@hamiltonpolice.on.ca email address in lieu of any way to electronically contact Chief Eric Girt. We've included you, Mr. Mayor and Councillor Jackson as members of the Police Board.)

The Hamilton and District Labour Council wishes to express its concern and dismay over the recent arrest of Cedar Hopperton, presumably for participation in PRIDE events which were apparently a breach of their parole. The connection between this supposed parole violation and the PRIDE incidents were made by the department in public statements.

That participation in a PRIDE event can be considered a parole violation should be vexing enough, but that all evidence points to the fact that Cedar was not even present at the PRIDE events at Gage Park make this arrest a serious violation of justice and a huge mishandling of the assaults, by hate groups, at the PRIDE event.

The arrest was made, suspiciously, after Cedar made a delegation at City Hall in which she was critical of the Hamilton Police. The arrest of Cedar screams of retaliation and pettiness. Such an action is unacceptable at a leadership level. Should any of this retaliation be uncovered, we would expect resignation and/or disciplinary action of senior officers responsible for this directive.

You have criminalized participation in PRIDE. Such an action not only validates Pride Hamilton's decision to have your officers at a distance, but provides evidence of the threat that they present to the LGBTQ2SI communities.

There is video footage, from Gage Park, of an identified male assaulting two people with a weapon and he was wandering the streets of Toronto this past weekend inflicting the same harassment and violence at that PRIDE event. Surely, if an arrest was to be made, he should have been the first consideration.

The police have the right to identify "inciting hate speech" and act upon that Charter and criminal violation. That so many of these hate groups have not only walked across that line, but bragged about it. Section 319(2) makes it an offence to wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group, by making statements (other than in private conversation). Why haven't the police acted upon such actions?

The community that celebrates at PRIDE has been victimized for the past two years by hate groups. That the police were not invited to participate in PRIDE does not allow them to shirk responsibilities from protecting Hamiltonians from violence and assault by hate groups. In both cases, members of the Hamilton and District Labour Council were at the park. Last year, I personally stood on the line to help dissuade the hate group from entering the park further.

During the many protests and actions that the Labour Council has initiated and participated in over the past many decades, we have always held an understanding that our rights to protest were being respected. We never, however, promoted hatred against an identified Charter group. We understand our freedoms of speech and expression are limited by hate.

We know you have this understanding as well. We can only assume that the choice not to act on it, in the case of these hate groups, is political and not ideological. If it is ideological, we have a much bigger problem. We would urge officers receive the training necessary to identify speech that promotes hatred, to be empowered to enforce Section 319(2), and to act upon such determinations.

Arresting Cedar Hopperton reads as nothing but a political ploy by management. The decision should be reversed and an apology given.

Anthony Marco
President, Hamilton and District Labour Council

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