This Is Why You Weren’t Invited: Hamilton Police Target Queers Fighting Back
Starting yesterday evening and into today Hamilton Police Services (HPS) have begun to harass those who were involved in the events that took place at Hamilton Pride. We are not referring to the hateful and exceedingly aggressive bigots who attacked folks, but those who defended themselves and other queers at Pride. As the police talk about “imminent arrests”, they are not targeting (or at least not exclusively targeting) the far-right chauvinists who instigated a fight, but those queers from the community who faced the brunt of their violence. HPS have shown up to multiple houses where known queer anarchists live, asking for people suspected to have been involved in the incident. In unmarked cars and plain clothes; in police cruisers and full uniform, Hamilton Police are threatening and clearly trying to intimidate those who were attacked. They’ve banged on doors and windows, camped out on front porches, and even surrounded and trapped a person in their driveway as they attempted to leave their house. The police certainly are not on our side and they are most definitely not out to “protect us”. We share this text so that others in the community can show their support and solidarity, and put pressure on the police and city to drop this attempt at targeting brave people who stood up for all of us last weekend.
The police do not, nor will they ever keep us safe, and the queer community is no exception to this truism. While somewhat cliché to mention at this point, the first pride was a riot and more specifically, it was an anti-police riot. The first pride was an uprising against police violence and this is true not only in reference to the Stonewall Riot in New York City, but also to countless other places. Here in Canada, Toronto Pride can be traced to the mass protests that erupted in response to the Bathhouse Raids in which police singled out and arrested hundreds of gay men. In Montreal, Pride has its origins in the street clashes that erupted in response to the Sex Garage Raid in which police shut-down an afterparty only to brutally beat everyone as they left. This isn’t just a matter of the past. Beyond such momentous occasions, every day in hundreds of both big and small ways, the police enact violence against queers and those they care about.
Last weekend in Hamilton, Pride was attacked by a vitriolic crowd of far-right homophobes, religious zealots, neo-nazis, and queer bashers. They came with the explicit intent of harassing and otherwise terrorizing pride goers. With massive signs decrying people’s “sins” in hand, they screamed insults, specifically focused in on LGBTQ youth and racialized folks, aggressively harassed individuals, made jokes about rape, and threatened physical violence. Very quickly, such threats became a reality as the bigots violently confronted people who were holding a fabric barrier in an attempt to block them from disrupting Pride. As this occurred, over a hundred Pride participants jumped in to stave off the haters. Queers who refused to allow their presence to go unchallenged were attacked, but fought back. Homosexuals are no cowards, and queers aren’t fragile snowflakes.
We fought back to defend ourselves, to come to the aid of our friends, and to protect others at Pride. The police (bitter about not having a recruitment booth at the event) couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger and were nowhere to be seen. Queers defended queers, and queers kept each other safe.
We need to take care of each other, to have each other’s backs, and to fight for our communities because the police never will. The police do not care about us and we cannot (nor do we desire to) rely on them. However, this is not the case for our enemies – they understand, as we do, that the police are their natural ally and more likely to protect than persecute them. The bigots have been sending police countless amounts of video footage, information on people’s suspected identity, and calling for the arrest of specific individuals. Obviously, this had been a one-sided engagement, since those whose who resisted their violence do not talk to police.
While well-intentioned, calls for further police involvement really miss the mark and do not produce the desired results. Remember HPS classifying police as a key risk group in Hamilton facing hate crimes? Or when the Circle A was called a hate symbol? We do. It’s doubtful that is what people had in mind when they pushed for more effort to be put into fighting hate crimes in the city. Calls for more policing and legislation, have unintended consequences and frequently harmful outcomes. This approach translates to queers and activists facing more, not less violence. It means police at your door and at your workplace; at the home of your family and cornering you on the street. It means potential arrest and jail, and all the inherent and unavoidable violence that comes with this.
It doesn’t matter how many rainbow stickers they put of their cruisers, how much inclusive language they use in their pamphlets, or how many gender neutral washrooms they open at their stations, we see the police for what they are. Police are shamelessly trying to bully their way into Hamilton’s LGBTQ community. They are using violence against Pride as a wedge to regain access to the festival next year, all the while trying to dissuade and delegitimize people who see possibilities for safety that don’t include them.
We can’t let this happen and we can’t allow the police to demonize and punish those of us who refuse to passively sit back while queer bashers crash our events, chase us on the streets, and otherwise stalk our lives. We call for acts of solidarity with all those targeted for standing up against hate at Pride. Please share this statement, harass city council and the mayor, tie up the phones of the Hamilton Police, talk to your neighbours and co-workers, and anything else you can think of. If anyone gets arrested, solidarity demonstrations and other actions will be immediately organized so keep your eyes open for the details.