Cedar Hopperton is on a hunger strike in jail, supporters say

A Hamilton anarchist who is still the only person arrested in connection to the Pride violence June 15 is in the midst of a hunger strike.

The anarchist was charged with what police say is a parole violation connected to the June Pride event

"I would encourage those people right now sitting at the back to get the f-ck out," said Cedar Hopperton of the police in the room at an LGBTQ community conversation last week. "The idea that we should turn to them for protection is actually ludicrous." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A Hamilton anarchist who is still the only person arrested in connection to the Pride violence June 15 is in the midst of a hunger strike in Hamilton's jail, say supporters.

Cedar Hopperton, 33, is in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre after being arrested Saturday for what police say was a parole violation that relates to Hopperton's conviction for participating in a Locke Street vandalism spree. A condition of sentencing was to not be at protests that disturb the peace.

Hopperton has refused to eat since Saturday, says a statement from The Tower, a local anarchist social space. The statement also disputes the charge and says Hopperton was not at the Pride festival.

"Despite the fact that they weren't at Pride, Cedar could spend weeks in jail just waiting for a parole hearing in order to make their case," The Tower says.

"In order to speed this process and apply pressure on the Hamilton Police, Cedar has begun a hunger strike."

Police arrested Hopperton at Saturday's peaceful anti-hate rally in front of city hall.

The optics of Hopperton, a transgender anarchist and activist, being the only arrest has drawn ire among queer Hamiltonians and their allies. This is especially true because numerous videos on social media show at least two alt-right protesters punching Hamilton Pride supporters. One even smashes someone in the face with a helmet.

This violence happened after religious protesters - for the second year in a row - gathered at Pride in Gage Park to brandish anti-LGBTQ signs and shout through a megaphone. This year, a group of counter-protesters dressed in black and wore pink masks, and put up a portable barrier to shield the homophobic signs from view. Other Pride attendees joined in with signs and noise makers.

Police said on the weekend that they are reviewing large amounts of video and witnesses statements and have identified other individuals. On Monday, Det. Sgt. Ben Thibodeau said police are still working on charging someone with assault. They want to be sure there's a reasonable prospect of conviction.

"By looking at the video, one would think you can just make the arrest," Thibodeau said. "It's not that simple."

It would be easier, he said, if victims worked with police. Victim cooperation isn't necessary to arrest someone, he said, but it helps to know the circumstances around an assault.

"It's a major part of the investigation to fully understand what happened leading to the assault," he said.

Based on many social media comments, it would take some time to build up trust for LGBTQ counter-protesters to approach police. Many of those comments suggest Hopperton's arrest doesn't help.

Cameron Kroetsch, an activist who also vice-chaired Pride Hamilton this year, said police should focus on the alt-right protesters, not the queer community.

"I continue to be absolutely disheartened that the police refuse to arrest the violent white supremacists who came to Pride to attack our community," he said, "and that they are instead focusing their attention on arrests related to parole violations."

Hopperton has been out on parole after being convicted on two mischief-related charges last year and serving some jail time. In court, Hopperton was described as being a "ring leader" in the vandalism spree by anarchists opposing gentrification. A group of anarchists marched down trendy Locke Street with a banner that said "We are ungovernable," and set off fireworks and threw rocks through store windows.

Police say Hopperton violated parole June 15 by being an active pink-mask counter-protesters at Pride, thereby "participating in a public demonstration where peace was disrupted." Police notified the parole board, Thibodeau said, and the parole board issued a warrant.

Hopperton's friends and supporters, however, say Hopperton wasn't even there. CBC News interviewed several people Monday who said they didn't see Hopperton at Pride.

James Diemert, a local community worker, said he's known Hopperton for 15 years. He was at the park all day in "a number of professional capacities," he said. If Hopperton was there, he said, he would have noticed.

"I ran into pretty much everyone I knew who was there and I didn't see them at any point, nor have I seen anybody who resembles them in any of the extensive video record of the incident," he said.

"I believe with absolute certainty that Cedar Hopperton was not in Gage Park at any point during Pride." 

'Completely unassociated with actions at Pride'

Matthew Green, a former city councillor who is now a federal NDP candidate for Hamilton Centre, said he was in the crowd from the beginning of the fracas.

"There was no person, that I saw, that would fit Cedar Hopperton's description," he said. "Cedar's slight frame would have been very apparent had Cedar been wearing a pink mask."

Hopperton did take the mic at a community conversation June 18 organized by the city's LGBTQ advisory committee. Hopperton said police target and imprison members of the queer community, then turned to Deputy Chief Frank Bergen and told him to "get the f-ck out."

Meanwhile, violence continued at Toronto Pride this weekend. There were more social media videos depicting it, Thibodeau said, and "some people seem to be the same people at the two events."

He said the service and Toronto police are sharing information.

'The optics were terrible'

Green said authorities let violence by alt-right groups happen twice.

"We now have two consecutive events in which two individuals, with two people videotaping, targeted and attacked vulnerable queer folk at Pride events. They are unprovoked, they are planned, they are coordinated and they are video recorded on social media."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who chairs the police services board, wouldn't comment on Monday. But Nrinder Nann, Ward 3 councillor, said Eisenberger and the city need a greater sense of urgency.

"The violence is here, and it's real," she said. As for the arrest, "the optics were terrible."


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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