3 years after Gage Park violence, pride indoors event with police presence in Hamilton Pi News

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It has been three years since Hamilton’s Pride celebrations were disrupted by anti – LGBT protesters, resulting in violent clashes, multiple arrests and a damaged relationship between the LGBTQ community and the police, as an independent report later described.

Pride Hamilton is gearing up for its first-ever celebration after the 2019 event at Gage Park. This year’s event will be held indoors on July 8 and 9.

As the celebration approaches, some community members say the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) needs to do more to rebuild the broken relationship.

“I’d like to see them… acknowledge what they’ve done, not just by apologizing for it, but talk specifically about what they did wrong,” said Cameron Grotch, who was on the Pride Hamilton team in 2019. The city’s LGBTQ advisory board.

“In my opinion, the mayor and the police did not do what was necessary to meet the reference,” Crotch, who is now a Ward 2 candidate in this fall municipal election, told CBC Hamilton.

The Pride Hamilton festival was disrupted on June 15, 2019 by members of the Yellow Dress movement, a religious group with homophobic signs and associated with far-right groups. Demonstrators met Pride supporters, who wore pink masks and used a large black screen to shield protesters from view of the festival. Violence broke out and many were injured.

Protesters at the 2019 Pride event met Pride supporters who wore pink masks and used a large black screen to shield them from view of the festival. (ihearthamilton/Twitter)

The police arrested an opponent, accused the three Bright supporters and arrested a person, and then found that he was not at the festival.

An independent review by attorney Scott Bergman found that the police response to the violence was “inadequate” and that the lack of police preparedness meant “failing to protect” those attending the festival. It contained 38 recommendations for the police.

A few days later the bad criticism came out A copy of the investigation was leaked The Office of the Director of Independent Police Review found that “policies and procedures were followed in this case and no problems were identified.”

The leaked report is one of the most confusing issues for Crotch.

“If you’re trying to build trust with the community, why are you trying to undermine the only external review that is written?” he said. “I think they don’t understand what it means to move towards a resolution and build trust.”

Hamilton’s Police Services Board has said it “genuinely and unconditionally apologizes for what happened” and will implement all 38 recommendations of Bergman’s report.

A police board presentation made earlier this year had at least 16 top recommendations to be implemented. Those include three related to HPS retaining a mediator to help guide negotiations with the community and establish a task force, HPS spokeswoman Jackie Penman said in an email to the CBC. The force is currently reviewing six names submitted by the community for the post, he said.

Five recommendations are related to training, and five recommendations are related to the next Pride event, which calls for better police communication, planning and community counseling before and after such an event.

‘There will be police to protect’: Pride chair

This year the Pride Hamilton Convention Center features two days of vendors and artists by Carmens on July 8th and July 9th. The event concludes with a performance featuring tug-of-war artist and former ruble traction racer Nicki Doll.

Pride Hamilton chairman Keel Hughes says the police will also attend the event.

Keel Hughes, chairman of Pride Hamilton, says the interior structure of this year’s event is only one time. (Submitted by Kiel Hughes)

Hughes says police have repeatedly consulted with the group on a plan to protect those attending the event, and will be stationed inside and around the perimeter of the building.

Acknowledging the “tense” relationship between several community members and the police force, he told CBC Hamilton that “the police will be there to serve and protect.”

“If the police are there, I’m sure they have to do it on their orders.

If they make that change and do what they need to do, I’m not going to try to stop them.– Bright Hamilton Chair Kiel Hughes

There is still a lot of work to be done to improve the relationship between the police and the LGBTQ community, but the police seem to be making improvements, Hughes added.

“I can see there’s an effort going on … how it’s going to happen, what it’s going to look like, is still undecided … if they’re working to make that change and do what they need to do, I’m not going to try to stop them. Look at what they’re trying to do, and that’s I encourage people to look at how it can work to everyone’s advantage.”

In 2020, Pride Hamilton filed a $ 600,000 lawsuit against the city and police in a human rights tribunal in Ontario. It said it discriminated against the police system for not protecting people at Pride celebrations.

That was before Hughes became the chair and when Crotch was on the board. He says Hamilton police have applied to the tribunal to dismiss the case, which normally hears complaints from individuals, not companies. Penman declined to confirm whether that was the case.

“It doesn’t seem like a system that’s really interested in solving things even during tick-box training,” says Grotch.

Cameron Crotch said he would like to see the police talk specifically about “what they did wrong”. (Richard Agegoude/CBC)

This year’s event is being held indoors for several reasons, Hughes says: safety; accessibility; Timeline challenges given the revised Covid-19 regulations at the end of March; And cost, as an external event requires significant cost of protection among other things.

‘No one wants another virtual glory’

Many in the community have complained about the indoor space, but few have volunteered to help organize it, Hughes said. The group currently has just four board members and is exhausted, Hughes said, adding that indoor space is only intended for one time this year.

“No one wants another virtual brag,” Hughes said. “After looking at the options…, that’s the choice because it helps alleviate some of the hard work of trying to get licenses and permits in a short period of time.”

The indoor nature of this year’s event is a hurdle for Holland-Valette River, who is immunocompromised and worried about the COVID-19 risk of a large, indoor event.

But many in the community are pessimistic about the sense of connection at this point, they said.

“The community as a whole is really struggling,” says Holland-Valet, who works on two spirits and mental health services within that community. Epidemic isolation, burnout and struggles to sustain rising living costs are one of the challenges they routinely see among their peers and clients.

River Holland-Vallet says many people in the community need a sense of connection. (Submitted by St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton)

“There are a lot of people who didn’t identify as LGBTQ before through the pandemic and the lockdown, and this is the first pride they’re reaching,” Holland-Wallet told CBC Hamilton.

A number of Pride events have been held in Hamilton in recent weeks, including the Queer Prom hosted by Fruit Salad in May and the outdoor Pride Picnic hosted by The House of Adam and Steve on June 18, the only July event to be held. Proud Hamilton.

“[Knowing what happened at the last Pride] Really can inspire and connect a lot of people who need resources,” Holland-Valette said.

They were at the 2019 event and said they still feel a lot of pain from what happened that day, noting that many people they know would be uncomfortable with police in a “closed” space.

“I knew I was going to be uncomfortable, especially as a bizarre and trance person,” Holland-Valet said. “If something happens, will they really protect the community? Because they’ve failed in the past.”