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Ferguson marchers in Hamilton demand changes from local police

Crowd chanted "Hands up! Don't shoot" and "Black, brown, red lives matter" on march through downtown.

Crowd chanted "Hands up! Don't shoot" and "Black, brown, red lives matter" on march through downtown.

Inspired by recent events in Ferguson, Mo., Hamilton activists organized a march Monday from City Hall, carrying signs and chanting "Black, brown, red lives matter!"

Events in Ferguson highlighted tensions between minorities and police, and the march Monday emphasized minority communities' relationship with local police.

As the march stopped in front of Hamilton Police Service's downtown station, organizer Kayonne Christy read aloud a list of demands for the service. The group called on Hamilton police to address issues of racial profiling and to purchase and require officers to wear lapel cameras.

Over heckling, Hamilton Police Service community relations coordinator Sandra Wilson responded. Wilson committed to share the group's recommendations with Chief Glenn de Caire and with senior officers.

"We know and we understand there are some significant concerns. As a police service we take these matters really, really seriously," she said.  "We will review, assess, take the time and respond" to the demands.

After the march, Ken Stone, a longtime anti-racism activist in Hamilton, discussed the "carding" practice where police stop and question citizens, recording information about them. In Toronto, the practice has been revealed to disproportionately target people of colour. 

In Hamilton, Stone said, officers don't collect racial details. But he said there are anecdotal reports that racial profiling is still happening, he said.

"We don't know that officially, but anecdotally we have many reports of police racial profiling especially black men, but people of many colours," he said. "They insist that they are not singling out racialized persons especially for stops on foot or in cars."

Asked specifically about any Hamilton Police Service practice of "carding," spokeswoman Catherine Martin reiterated the department's commitment to review and assess the march organizers' demands delivered today. She shared a link to a brochure the department put out that says a person does not have to produce identification when stopped on foot on the street but that "it is advisable to be polite and answer the officer’s questions."

Several of the organizers of Monday's march knew each other from attending McMaster University, but other attendees represented anti-racism and community activism groups. 

The march took off from Hamilton City Hall shortly after noon Monday and proceeded down Main Street before turning left on Ferguson St. Those assembled stopped for 4.5 minutes of silence in front of the Hamilton Police Service Central Station. The time represented a minute for every hour Michael Brown's body was reportedly left on a Ferguson street after he was shot by police officer Darren Wilson. A discussion afterward happened at the Beasley Community Centre before the group dispersed after 2 p.m.

The Hamilton Police Services Board decided to study implementing police body cameras at its last meeting. There, costs were estimated to range between $6 and $14 million over a five-year period.

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