Hamilton

Parole hearing will focus on Hopperton's comments at city hall LGBTQ meeting

Comments in support of being "violent if necessary" at a public meeting at Hamilton city hall will be the focus of an appearance tomorrow between the Ontario Parole Board and Cedar Hopperton.

Hopperton's alleged presence at Pride is not part of the hearing, says lawyer

"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's parole board hearing Thursday will focus on Hopperton's comments in support for being "violent if necessary" made at a city hall public meeting and not on the allegation they were at Pride, says their lawyer.

Hopperton, a Hamilton anarchist, has been behind bars since June 22 on what police say is a parole violation related to an earlier conviction for their role in the Locke Street vandalism spree. Initial police reports said Hopperton, who uses the pronoun "they," violated parole for being at a Pride festival confrontation that turned violent.

But Asaf Rashid, Hopperton's lawyer, says the parole board has cited his client's recent speech city hall council chambers as the main reason parole was revoked.

"As far as the parole breach goes, the only issue that's being brought up is the meeting," said Rashid, who'll represent Hopperton, 33, at the 10 a.m. hearing at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton.

The board, Rashid said, alleges "the nature of the comments were suggestive of violence, and were basically telling people to do violent things."

Hopperton spoke at a June 18 meeting held by city council's LGBTQ advisory committee. There were various topics on the agenda. The most heated one, though, was violence at a Pride festival in Gage Park three days earlier.

At that festival, Christian extremists arrived at the park with homophobic signs. Some wore helmets and carried cameras.

A group of counter-protesters with connections to The Tower, a local anarchist social space, wore black clothes and pink masks, and used a portable barrier to block the signs from view. There was shoving and other violence, and online video shows two anti-Pride protesters punching people in pink masks. Police say there were several injuries.

Pride Hamilton organizers say police took too long to respond.

At the city hall meeting, LGBTQ people took the mic and vented their anger and frustration. Hopperton did too.

"I'm not part of any community that includes police," Hopperton said.

Instead of relying on police, Hopperton said "let's figure out how to use measured force ourselves and figure out when it's appropriate to do so."

"Building up the strength to act, the strength even to be violent if necessary, is a necessary condition for your choice to be peaceful to be meaningful. Otherwise you're just powerless."

Hopperton then pointed to Deputy Chief Frank Bergen and told him to "get the f-ck out."

Rashid said it appears police cited the Pride event and public meeting in information forwarded to the parole board. But the board is examining only the meeting comments. He said the hearing process is different from a court trial. First, it is not open to the public. He'll make opening and closing statements. Then the board members will put questions to Hopperton. 

In an interview at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre on Thursday, Hopperton said the comments were "intended to be provocative." It was a public meeting though, they said, and they saw it as a safe place for LGBTQ people to speak.

Hopperton was out on parole after being sentenced last year on mischief charges for anti-gentrification vandalism on Locke Street, where a large group of masked people in all black damaged businesses and vehicles. Hopperton was described in court as a ringleader.

In addition to Hopperton, police also have arrested three people who were part of the pink-mask group. Police also said Hopperton was at the festival, although several witnesses said otherwise. Hamilton Police Service didn't respond to several requests for comment this week.

Another woman associated with The Tower has been charged with criminal harassment, causing a disturbance, mischief and theft under $5,000 as a result of a "day of solidarity" where supporters encouraged the use of the #freecedar hashtag.

Rashid said he has several affidavits from people who say Hopperton and others were encouraged to speak at the public meeting. The meeting was peaceful otherwise, he said, so he'll argue Hopperton was entitled to freedom of expression.

Hopperton said Thursday that they feel "a lot of gratitude" from the community support. If they have to stay in jail until the end of their sentence, they said, they'll be released sometime in 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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