Hamilton

'Defund the police' protestors leave coffin in front of Mayor Eisenberger's home

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says Hamilton police are investigating after "defund the police" protestors left a coffin, on Monday night, in front of his home.

The group said the coffin represents those who have died because of homelessness and policing

'Defund the police' protestors left a coffin in front of Mayor Fred Eisenberger's home on Monday night. The mayor says Hamilton police is investigating. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton police are investigating after "defund the police" protestors left a coffin, on Monday night, in front of Mayor Fred Eisenberger's home.

Now, the mayor hopes officers "throw the book" at them.

"This is over the line, unacceptable ... going to elected officials' homes, upsetting family and wives, [those] are fighting words, but there's nothing to fight on here," he said in a phone interview late Monday.

"I'm delighted to hear the police may have some footage and hopefully they'll throw the book at them."

It follows a week-long protest that led bylaw officers to tear down the group's tents outside of Hamilton's city hall and hand out trespass notices in the morning after demonstrators occupied the space for seven days.

The coffin, between five and six feet in length, was left open with three naloxone kits sitting on a bed of flowers.

The coffin left in front of Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger's home on Monday night is meant to represent the lives lost from homelessness and policing, the group says. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The group said it symbolizes the people who have died because of homelessness and policing. They recently held a ceremony on Sunday for the same purpose, which the mayor did not attend.

"Eisenberger has blood on his hands," Rowa Mohamed, a 26-year-old demonstrator, said as she stood at the foot of Eisenberger's driveway.

"He did not attend that vigil, and so we have brought the vigil here to him."

Demonstrators, at least a dozen of them, arrived in multiple vehicles near the mayor's home just shy of 9 p.m.on Monday.

Raindrops fell as they quietly pulled the small coffin out of a trunk and carried it for a few steps before placing it in front of his home.

Mohamed said city leaders should meet with demonstrators in public and cut the Hamilton police budget by 50 per cent, with half of that money being redirected to free housing for people in need.

"Fred's priorities are abhorrent. The city's priorities are abhorrent. But us, the youth in this city, we have our priorities straight," Mohamed said during her speech. "We need free, permanent housing now. We need an end to policing now. We need the defunding of Hamilton Police Service today."

Shortly after Mohamed's speech, the group left.

Police confirmed they are investigating in a media release Tuesday morning, saying the service received reports of a "suspicious incident" around 9:30 p.m.

"The area was secured as police confirmed the safety of area residents, identified witnesses and searched for suspects," reads the release.

Officers were in the area overnight and a police presence is expected in the neighbourhood throughout the day, according to investigators.

Mayor says group doesn't care about housing

Eisenberger said the group is interested in "confrontation not conversation."

He said the city invited a few of the group's leaders to enter city hall and discuss the issues as early as Thursday. He said the group declined, instead asking for Eisenberger to speak with them outside and live-stream the discussion.

"That's not something I was prepared to do ... now they're making the claim we made no effort to [reach out]. That's simply untrue and the door is always open if they want to have a conversation."

Gregory Dongen said he feels they've been ignored after spending days outside of city hall without a conversation with the mayor.

"Sending the police to the encampment, the Freedom Camp, was not what we were hoping for," Dongen said.

Eisenberger said he won't be setting up any kind of committee with the group to discuss their complaints and called defunding the police an "irrational thought."

"They're not interested in a conversation. They have one issue in mind that isn't going to happen," the mayor said.

Although, he said there's already a conversation around the services police provide and if there's a better way to offer them via the community safety and wellness exercise that's already underway.

He also said the city is moving "heaven and earth" to make sure people have a place to stay if they have no home, adding that there is space open right now.

"There is no reason for anyone to be living rough outside right now unless they refuse to go into a shelter or affordable housing home and that in fact actually happens. We're not here to harm anyone. We're here to help."

Dongen said the group realizes the mayor won't change his perspective over night, but hopes the coffin in front of his home sends a message.

"It's our hope he makes the effort into actually looking at the fact that the police are overfunded ... looks into the housing crisis and how there's only $50 million going toward it."

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