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Pride Hamilton says flag flying at City Hall is ‘hollow and empty gesture’

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Pride Hamilton says flag flying at City Hall is ‘hollow and empty gesture’

Pride Hamilton is calling on Hamilton Police and Hamilton City Hall to take down their ‘empty gestures’ of solidarity with the Pride movement.

Monday (June 1st) marked the beginning of Pride month and in an effort to honour that, City Hall raised a Pride Flag and trans flag while the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) shared a video featuring the police chief and other officers wishing residents a Happy Pride.

“The Hamilton Police Service and its leadership under the Hamilton Police Services Board, a Board that includes Hamilton’s Mayor, continue to undermine, ignore, and silence members of Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities,” an open letter dated Wednesday (June 3) from Pride Hamilton said.

“The act of raising flags is a meaningless symbolic gesture if a request to fly them doesn’t come from the communities that those flags represent.

“Let us be impeccably clear: this was a hollow and empty gesture

In the letter, which was sent to the Hamilton Police Services Board, the administration of the Hamilton Police Service, and the Mayor of Hamilton, they ask City Hall to take down the pride flag and to consult members of the trans community about flying their flag.

Pride Hamilton goes on to ask HPS to remove the video, which they say is full of “inappropriate and hurtful imagery,” and is evidence of how out of touch HPS is with the community.

“It contains images of bulletproof vests and military-style uniforms mixed with pink- and rainbow-washing calls to join in a virtual celebration,” the letter said.

“This video makes digital Pride spaces unsafe for some members of Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities.”

The relationship between HPS and the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ has always been acrimonious but distrust is at an all-time high after Pride 2019 at Gage Park was attended by a number of Yellow Vest protesters and violence ensued.

HPS has come under fire repeatedly for their handling of the incident in the park, many accusing them of deliberately delaying response.

Following the 2019 Pride violence, the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ community held a public event to give members of their community a platform to vent their fears and grief over the violence.

It’s alleged that an HPS officer attended the event and subsequently reported back to the Ontario Parole Board about comments made during the meeting, which subsequently led to the arrest of a member of the community.

Since then, comments made by Chief Eric Girt on a local radio show that referenced homophobic stereotypes, and a dragged-out back and forth between the Police Services Board and the LGBTQ Advisory Committee when the former appealed for a delegation, has eroded the already fraught relationship further.

A report on the independent review into the events at Hamilton Pride 2019 is due next week. 

The open letter finishes off by demanding the city and police take action on:

  • There are still charges pending against those who stood up to defend Pride from white supremacists in 2019: drop the charges
  • The issues raised by the City of Hamilton’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee and PrideHamilton, both in advance of last year’s flag-raising and in the aftermath of the violence at Pride 2019, have not been properly addressed: respond to them publicly
  • The LGBTQ Advisory Committee has not been permitted to meet virtually and, as a result, has been prevented from participating in Pride month or addressing these issues: allow City of Hamilton citizen committees to meet virtually
  • Neither the Hamilton Police Services Board nor the Hamilton Police Service have taken action to address the damage their organizations and their members have done to all oppressed communities in Hamilton: take action to address these and other demands made by members of oppressed communities in Hamilton

In the letter, Pride Hamilton also reaffirms their support of the local activists who organized a series of live-streamed videos in support of Black Lives Matter across Hamilton on Tuesday (June 2).

In the videos, which make reference to the events at Pride 2019, local activists appear in front of City Hall, HPS HQ, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) HQ, McMaster University and in front of MPP Andrea Horwath’s office to issue a list of demands to address systemic racism against Indigenous and Black communities.

Foremost among those demands was the call to defund police, the process by which taxpayer money typically earmarked for police services be redirected to social and mental health services.

They also call for the disarming of police forces and for the discontinuation of an HPS initiative that places officers in HWDSB schools.

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