Hopperton awaits parole decision after lawyer argues right to freedom of expression

A Hamilton anarchist whose parole was revoked after speaking at a city hall public meeting about being "violent if necessary" is waiting to hear if they'll remain in jail.
"I would encourage those people right now sitting at the back to get the f--k out," said Cedar Hopperton during a June 18 community conversation at city hall. Hopperton was on parole, and their lawyer says their comments at the meeting were the reason they were arrested. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A Hamilton anarchist whose parole was revoked after speaking at a city hall public meeting about being "violent if necessary" is waiting to hear if they'll remain in jail.

Cedar Hopperton had an Ontario Parole Board hearing Thursday morning that lasted more than two hours, says Hopperton's lawyer, Asaf Rashid. He expects a decision late Thursday or early Friday.

The bulk of that hearing focused on Hopperton's speech at a recent meeting in city hall council chambers, Rashid said.

City council's LGBTQ advisory committee held the June 18 "community conversation" to hear opinions on numerous issues. The most heated was violence at a Pride festival in Gage Park three days earlier, when Christian extremists and counter-protesters in pink masks clashed and several people were injured.

Hopperton, who uses the pronoun they, took the mic to say they're "not part of any community that includes police."

Hopperton urged LGBTQ residents not to rely on police for protection against hate groups. Instead, "let's figure out how to use measured force ourselves and figure out when it's appropriate to do so." They also told the deputy chief of the Hamilton Police Service to "get the f--k out."

Hopperton was on parole for their role in a 2018 anarchist vandalism spree on Locke Street. In court, the Crown called them the "ringleader."

Initially, police said Hopperton violated parole by being a counter-protester at Pride. But on Thursday, Jackie Penman, a spokesperson for Hamilton Police Service, said police also sent the parole board Hopperton's comments from the public meeting.

Rashid said the parole board arrest warrant only cites the meeting. The board and police, he said, saw Hopperton's comments as being "suggestive of violence," and "basically telling people to do violent things." 

Rashid said about half an hour of the hearing Thursday was spent on whether Hopperton was at Pride, with a couple of photos supplied by police that he contested. 

Rashid argued Hopperton, who is at Milton's Vanier Centre for Women, was exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression. The issue, he said, is "a major concern for a lot of people, and I thought it was important to go all the way."

Interestingly, Rashid said, many freedom of expression court rulings he found during his research focused on people with wildly different views from Hopperton.

Among them: In 2018, Ontario's court of appeal said Fred Bracken had a right to hold a sign in a public Niagara Falls park that read "Trump is right. F—k China. F—k Mexico."

In connection to the Pride incident, police have charged four other people. One is charged with assault, two for violating a court order, and one for two counts of assault with a weapon. 

The latter — Chris Vanderweide, 27, of Kitchener — was an anti-Pride protester who was seen in videos wielding a helmet.

Vanderweide made a brief video appearance at the John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton Thursday morning. He wore an orange T-shirt and waved at the camera before being escorted off-screen. His supporters filled three benches at the side of the room.

Vanderweide is scheduled to appear by video again Monday to set a date for a full-day bail hearing.


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

With files from Dan Taekema