Hamilton

Peaceful, family-friendly LGBTQ rally planned Saturday to 'counter hate'

A few Pride-supporting groups will hold a family-friendly rally at Hamilton city hall this weekend to counteract violent attacks at the city's Pride festival last month.

'We just want to take up space in public. We want to celebrate and just have a good day'

A pride flag flies from New Vision United Church in downtown Hamilton in 2017. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A few Pride-supporting groups will hold a family-friendly rally at Hamilton city hall this weekend to counteract violent attacks at the city's Pride festival last month.

The Hamilton and District Labour Council, the Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers' Local, the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, Environment Hamilton and others will hold "Hamilton For Who?" It will be a "peaceful, non-violent" event with a selfie booth, sign making and kids' activities, organizers say.

It will also happen at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, a time when people in yellow vests usually congregate in front of city hall.

Cameron Kroetsch of Pride Hamilton, one of the organizations involved in the event, said it's not about confrontation, or duelling viewpoints. 

"Part of this is about countering hate," he said. "That has typically been a time when people (in yellow vests) have shown up at city hall. Having this positive, family-friendly, peaceful event there is a way to demonstrate solidarity."

But "it really came from allies, and wanting to do something that was celebratory. We just want to take up space in public. We want to celebrate and just have a good day."

The last attempt had some traumatic results. On June 15, self-appointed preachers with homophobic signs crashed a Gage Park Pride event, and clashed with festival supporters and LGBTQ residents. This included a group of people associated with The Tower, a local anarchist social space, who wore black clothes and pink masks and tried to use a large portable barrier to block the protesters from view.

Several people were injured that day, and Pride Hamilton and others have criticized the police response

The violence also led to one religious protester and three counter-protesters being charged. Christopher Vanderweide, one of the Pride opposers, is charged with two counts assault with a weapon. Vanderweide will appear by video in Hamilton court July 11 to set a date for a bail hearing. 

As for the counter-protesters, two were arrested for violating a court order, and one was arrested for assault. Another person was arrested for a parole violation for giving a speech about the incident at a city hall public meeting.

All this and more have created hard feelings between police, the city and the LGBTQ community. But Kroetsch said there's no specific political message to this rally. There won't be political speeches, he said. Or many speeches from anyone, really. 

As for whether there will be friction, "I'm concerned about that all the time in Hamilton at the moment."

The rally is from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Hamilton city hall forecourt.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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