Churches, unions, supporters ready to block anti-LGBTQ protesters at Hamilton Pride

There will be drums, banners, marching and even 200 rainbow kazoos.

There will be drums, banners, marching and even 200 rainbow kazoos

People use flags to block protest signs at Haldimand-Norfolk Pride in Dunnville on May 26. Unions, churches, allies and organizers are mobilizing with their own banners, signs, drums and kazoos. (Deirdre Pike/Twitter)

Churches, union activists and other supporters expect protesters with signs that say "Hell awaits you" and "Turn or burn" to disrupt Hamilton Pride celebrations this weekend. So they're preparing ways to drown them out.

I figure if there's anyone who can match signs and flags, it's the labour movement.- Anthony Marco, Hamilton and District Labour Council

A group that brands itself "street preachers" interrupted Haldimand-Norfolk Pride celebrations on May 26, and Barrie's Pride event last weekend.

Hamilton Pride organizers and their allies will have giant flags, banners and 200 rainbow kazoos to drown out the group in case it shows up here. They've even invited a marching band.

"We recognized we needed to mobilize in Hamilton and prepare for this," said Sean Cullen, Pride Hamilton chair.

"We will have large banners and noise makers prepared as well as many allies standing beside us."

A pride flag flies from New Vision United Church in downtown Hamilton. New Vision will be one of the churches at the Pride celebration this weekend to drown out potential protests. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The protest group interrupted Haldimand-Norfolk's small Pride celebration — the area's second one ever — in Dunnville's Central Park.

I can't really express the visceral reaction I felt from this.- Dick Passmore

Protesters stood in front of the stage with inflammatory signs. One pointed individually at people in the audience and "screamed the worst kind of things," said Deirdre Pike, a Hamilton LGBTQ activist who was the guest speaker.

The incident upset and traumatized attendees, said Dick Passmore, who was master of ceremonies. 

"I can't really express the visceral reaction I felt from this … It was vile, hate filled and telling people things that were absolutely abhorrent."

'We can take on the brunt'

Community organizers held a No Hate in Hamilton event Tuesday. A group, the Hamilton Queers Against Hate subcommittee, has formed.

Chair James Dee said they've invited drums groups and marching bands. Volunteers will be on hand for emotional support. Local supportive churches will help, including New Vision United Church.

"We start from the basis that all humans are made in the image of God, that God's image is inclusive and diverse," said Rev. Ian Sloan from New Vision. "Some people in this professional group of agitators seem to not be able to relate to that."

We can't dwell on that because then we'd be afraid. None of us are wanting to be afraid.- Sue Wilkins, Haldimand-Norfolk Pride co-organizer

The Hamilton and District Labour Council will have kazoos, said president Anthony Marco. Members will bring large flags and banners to block the protest signs.

"I figure if there's anyone who can match signs and flags, it's the labour movement," Marco said.

"We can take on the brunt by holding up some signs, flags and banners so the people who are there to celebrate don't have to face that."

Police are aware of the potential protest, said Jackie Penman, Hamilton Police Service spokesperson. 

"We are prepared to respond, if necessary," she said. "We want people to enjoy the park and Sunday's event.

"While everyone has the right to participate in a peaceful protest, we remind any participants to be considerate towards our community and respect the law."

'We can't dwell on that'

Ruben Israel, a notorious "street preacher" from Los Angeles, took credit for the Dunnville incident on his blog. 

"In Canada we worked with like-minded street preachers from Toronto and our host Church from Hamilton that housed us and fed us," he wrote. He included photos of the group in downtown Hamilton, Niagara Falls and the Anime North convention in Toronto. 

CBC Hamilton attempted to contact Israel.

Haldimand-Norfolk​ will have a Pride event next year, said organizer Sue Wilkins.

The display was "absolutely horrendous," she said. But "I can honestly say that I'm not going to spend a year fretting about it."

"We can't dwell on that because then we'd be afraid. None of us are wanting to be afraid."

The Gage Park event will have a family carnival area, aerial acts, a DJ and a free family barbecue. The event runs from 12 noon to 6 p.m. There will also be a solidarity rally at the Gage Park fountain at 10:30 a.m.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

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