Cedar Hopperton will stay in jail following heated speech at Hamilton city hall

Cedar Hopperton, a Hamilton anarchist who's been behind bars following a heated speech at a city hall public meeting, will continue to have their parole revoked.
"I would encourage those people right now sitting at the back to get the f-ck out," said Cedar Hopperton of the police in the room. "The idea that we should turn to them for protection is actually ludicrous." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Cedar Hopperton, a Hamilton anarchist who's been behind bars following a heated speech at a city hall public meeting, will continue to have their parole revoked.

Hopperton, 33, has been in jail since June 22. That's when police arrested Hopperton following a speech about violence between far right demonstrators and a group of people in pink masks at a Pride festival a week earlier.

Initially, Hamilton police said Hopperton was at Pride and included both allegations as violations of parole conditions in its submission to the board. But Hopperton's lawyer, Asaf Rashid, say the allegation of being at Pride got little attention at the parole board hearing.

Instead, the board ruled on whether Hopperton was inciting violence in an anti-police speech. 

Rashid argued that Hopperton had a right to freedom of expression, especially in Hamilton city council chambers.

"It basically baffles me," Rashid said. "It's a very disappointing decision, and it basically speaks to the very poor recognition of the rights of a person that is on parole."

Hopperton — who uses the pronoun they — gave the speech after several people were injured at a June 15 Pride festival at Hamilton's Gage Park. A group of self-appointed street preachers with homophobic signs arrived at the park with loud speakers and cameras. A masked group of people associated with The Tower, a local anarchist social space, blocked the protesters with a large black portable barrier.

The incident devolved in a violent clash between the people with homophobic signs and Pride supporters. A week later, police arrested Hopperton, who was on parole for their role in anti-gentrification vandalism on Locke Street a year earlier. The Crown described Hopperton as "the ringleader" of the Locke Street incident.

In a June 22 media release, police said Hopperton violated parole "in (the) Pride Hamilton disturbance" for "participating in a public demonstration where peace was disrupted."

Police eventually admitted, however, that Hopperton's speech at a June 18 "community conversation" held by city council's LGBTQ advisory committee was part of why they reported Hopperton to the Ontario Parole Board.

In the provocative speech, made amid numerous frustrated speeches from LGBTQ residents, Hopperton said they are "not part of any community that includes police."

Hopperton urged the LGBTQ community 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."

Hopperton also told the deputy chief of the Hamilton Police Service to "get the f--k out."

The case has attracted widespread attention, particularly since police have arrested and charged three counter-protesters and only one protester. 

Of the three counter-protesters arrested, two are affiliated with the Tower and were also on probation for convictions related to the Locke Street vandalism. The one protester arrested is charged with assault.

Police say to deal with possible assaults by protesters seen on video they need victims and witnesses to be more willing to come forward to co-operate with their investigations, and have made several public calls for that.

On Monday, 100 academics from various Ontario universities signed a letter expressing concern about how police and the city have handled the Pride incident.

A group of McMaster University faculty have expressed similar concerns, as have various unions, the Hamilton District Labour Council and the Council of Canadians.

Hopperton told CBC News last month that their sentence ends in late August.

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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