Hamilton

LGBTQ invitees decline mayor's meeting to mend bridges, saying there's work to do first

Hamilton's mayor is holding a meeting Friday to try to reduce friction between the city and the LGBTQ community, but at least two invitees say they won't attend until police are held accountable — and one wants Cedar Hopperton freed.
Branko Bursac took this photo of protestor's outside the mayor's house yelling and playing instruments around 7 a.m. Friday. (Supplied by Branko Bursac)

Hamilton's mayor is holding a meeting Friday to try to reduce friction between the city and the LGBTQ community, but at least two invitees say they won't attend until police are held accountable — and one also wants Cedar Hopperton freed first.

Graham Crawford and Cameron Kroetsch both say they won't attend a private meeting with Mayor Fred Eisenberger and his two special advisors who are helping him build bridges with LGBTQ Hamiltonians.

Kroetsch, who chairs city council's LGBTQ advisory committee, said he urges everyone invited to "decline the invitation." The meeting has no agenda or shared list of invitees, and is on the mayor's terms, Kroetsch said. And police need to apologize and free Hopperton.

"Police must #FreeCedar and the rest of those charged for defending Pride from homophobic and white supremacist extremists; the mayor and Hamilton Police Services must apologize for the harm they've done; and our leaders must come up with an immediate action plan," Kroestch said on Twitter.

"Then, maybe, people will start to feel comfortable enough to sit down and provide honest feedback."

Eisenberger is trying to arrange the meeting after he announced late last week the appointment of the two special advisors to help find a way to move forward on the troubled relationship and to combat hate.

Input and advice

In a statement, he told CBC News "the purpose of the meeting is to have an initial conversation to seek input and advice from 2SLGBTQ+ community members on how to build a stronger relationship, address hate and hate crimes, and develop a collaborative strategy to address discrimination against 2SLGBTQ+ communities in Hamilton."

Crawford also has conditions he wants to see addressed before he joins that conversation. 

Crawford said he wants Eisenberger, who chairs the police services board, to hold Chief Eric Girt accountable for police response to the violence at the June 15 Pride festival in Gage Park. 

Eisenberger, in his statement, said he "has spoken to the police" about the Pride response, but provided no details about what that conversation entailed. He said police would not be at that initial meeting.

Crawford also said said he has concerns and questions about the circumstances of Hopperton's arrest.

Police are alleging Hopperton was one of the pink-masked counter protesters at the Pride event and breached parole by being there.

Hopperton's hearing before a parole board is set for Thursday. It is a closed hearing.

Fraught relationship

The mayor has had a fraught relationship of late with many in the LGBTQ community.

In May, the advisory committee asked the city not to fly the Pride flag, and wanted to hold a community conversation instead. Eisenberger's office flew the flag but didn't hold a ceremony.

Then at Pride, a group of religious extremists arrived at Gage Park for the second year in a row, some wearing helmets and brandishing homophobic signs. 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.

"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)

Pride Hamilton, which Kroetsch vice chairs, said police took too long to shut down the religious protesters. Girt said police would have deployed differently if they were welcome at the event.

The first Pride-related arrest came a week later in the form of Hopperton, an anarchist and transgender activist who police say violated parole by attending a non-peaceful protest. Hopperton supporters say they didn't see Hopperton there.

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.

Police say they've arrested three pink-mask people, all for violating court orders. They've arrested one anti-Pride protester in the form of Christopher Vanderweide, who's charged with two counts of assault with a weapon. Police say their efforts to charge people with acts of violence would be helped if more witnesses and victims would come forward.

Council uproar

Eisenberger angered people with what some saw as silence in the days following the Pride violence. This was exacerbated at a city council meeting last week, when Eisenberger ejected people from the gallery who were shouting at comments made by Coun. Sam Merulla.

Hopperton's arrest led to a day of solidarity Friday, which led to protesters with connections to the Tower putting signs on Eisenberger's lawn that said the "Mayor doesn't care about queer people." Video also appears to show them using noise makers and stealing his Canadian flag.

Within six hours, police arrested a 33-year-old woman and charged her with mischief, criminal harassment, causing a disturbance and theft under $5,000.

On Friday, Eisenberger enlisted Deirdre Pike and city employee Cole Gately to help him mend bridges as special advisors. Even after that announcement, Crawford said, Eisenberger continued to argue back at LGBTQ people criticizing him on Twitter. 

"Fred continues with these missteps and the silence and the supporting of police and then says 'let's all get along,'" he said. "He's tone deaf."

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

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.