'Ring leader' of Locke Street vandals gets jail time as 5 plead guilty

A group of people who went on a vandalism spree on Locke Street back in March have pleaded guilty for their roles in the flurry of mischief.

Defence lawyers argued accused were motived by social justice

Back in March, some 30 individuals dressed in black clothing with their faces covered walked through the streets of Hamilton carrying a banner that said, “We Are The Ungovernable,” according to police. (@OliverioCarmela/Twitter)

A group of people who were part of a vandalism spree on Locke Street in March have pleaded guilty for their roles in the flurry of mischief.

Local anarchist and activist Cedar Hopperton pleaded guilty before the Ontario Court of Justice in Hamilton Thursday morning to one count of mischief over $5,000 and one count of counseling to commit mischief.

Following a joint submission by his lawyer and the Crown, Hopperton was sentenced to a year in custody, less four months for time served, which will be followed by a year of probation.

"See you all soon, take care of each other," said the 31-year-old on the way out of the courtroom.

"Love you," responded supporters.

Hopperton was described in court as the "ring leader" of a crowd of masked group of 15-40 people who pelted buildings and vehicles with eggs and rocks and had earlier in the day invited people to attend a "militant and confrontational march."

According the Crown and a victim impact statement read in court, the crowd was interpreted by those in the neighbourhood as a violent mob that left people afraid and shaken.

Tammy Kovich, who the court heard handed out flyers advertising the demonstration, pleaded guilty to one count of mischief over $5,000. She was given a nine-month conditional sentence which will be broken down into three month chunks made up of house arrest, curfew and terms, along with 12 months of probation.

Matthew Lowell-Pelletier and David Prychitka also pleaded guilty to mischief over $5,000. They were sentenced to 18 months probation and 100 hours of community service.

A fifth participant, Tyler Nadeau, pleaded guilty to two counts of mischief over $5,000 but was not sentenced Thursday. A pre-sentence report has been requested and he'll be back before the court for sentencing on Feb. 5.

Barred from Locke Street

Conditions for all of the accused include being barred from the section of Locke Street South between Main Street and Aberdeen Avenue. They're also not allowed to participate or organize any sort of protest unless it remains peaceful.

Defence lawyers for the accused and the Crown clashed over whether or not an order to provide DNA be part of sentencing, with the defence lawyers arguing it amounted to an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

In the end, Justice Joe Fiorucci ruled only Hopperton would have to provide DNA, referencing the fact the Hamilton resident was previously arrested during the G20 protests in 2010 and pleaded guilty to one count of counselling mischief.

Hopperton was also ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to the victims, while the other three will have to pay $1,000 each.

'Because F--k the Rich'

Hopperton was the organizer and promoter behind an anarchist bookfair held at Westdale Secondary School over the weekend of March 3-4 2018, according to an agreed statement of facts read in court.

The statement says that during the book fair, and later that day, Hopperton and Kovich handed out a flyer titled 'Because F--k the Rich" that stated "Hamilton has been beset upon by a plague of gentrifying yuppies. Let's show those f--ks what we think of them" and advised of "... a militant and confrontational march, [so] dress appropriately."

This was mischief witha message.Be afraid, we are ungovernable, you can't stop us.- Gordon Akilie, assistant Crown attorney

The flyer included a map of Durand Park. 

Court heard police were called to the park around 9:34 p.m. after reports of a large group of people who were spray painting public property. After officers arrived, members of the group, including some who had brought stereo equipment, cartons of eggs and fireworks, started to break away.

The statement of facts says police tried to speak with the group, but members left the park and headed up Bay Street and blocked. Hopperton then told the group to "mask up" and people started picking up bricks and other projectiles.

Kovich and Prychitka were among those firing off fireworks, according to the statement.

Members of the group, including Lowell-Pelletier, were carrying a large, black banner with the words "WE ARE THE UNGOVERNABLE."

Six businesses, 10 vehicles and one police cruiser were damaged during the vandalism spree. (Ryan McGreal/Raise the Hammer)

As the group headed along Aberdeen Avenue and turned onto Locke Street, the statement says Nadeau vandalized vehicles and threw a rock through a window at Donut Monster, leading others to shatter the shop's remaining windows.

He also hurled rocks through the windows of Bitten Cupcakes, "directed" others by picking targets and told people where they could find rocks and other projectiles, according to the statement.

Once enough police arrived to take on the crowd, its members fled, "shedding layers of clothing in an effort to evade police."

'Mischief with a message'

"This was mischief with a message," Crown Gordon Akilie said in court.

Their message was, 'Be afraid, we are ungovernable, you can't stop us, in fact you won't find us.'

Akilie said "This was an attack on the rule of law, an affront to citizen's ability to feel safe."

But the defence lawyers for the accused, including Craig Bottomley who represented Hopperton, argued they were motivated by social justice and characterized the incident as an attack on property, not people.

Bottomley also described the vandalism as a "political expression" that crossed into criminality.

While reading his decision, Fiorucci referenced a victim impact statement from Tony Greco, chair of the Locke Street BIA.

It described the neighbourhood as "inclusive and welcoming" and said the spree of vandalism by what Greco called a "mob" had created fear in the community.