Police arrest anti-hate protestor, city officials attend No Hate in the Hammer rally
A bus allegedly linked to a yellow vester also drove up and onto the sidewalk
People raised rainbow signs and handed out flowers outside Hamilton city hall on Saturday to share a message of anti-hate. But the peaceful demonstration ended with one arrest and included a tense moment where a bus mounted the sidewalk.
The anti-hate rally was also attended by Mayor Fred Eisenberger and several other councillors looking to respond to community calls for clear gestures of support from civic leaders.
Jackie Penman, spokesperson for Hamilton police, said police arrested an anti-hate protestor at the rally for "breach of the peace and causing a disturbance."
She said that the activist had been cautioned earlier, but was eventually arrested for "attempting to assault a group of protestors." Penman said he faces charges of resisting arrest.
City officials and protestors of all ages gathered for a "No Hate in the Hammer" rally to counter the presence of yellow vesters, who had been holding weekly protests at the site. Approximately 100 people had turned out.
A campaign of the same name had been launched by Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, and the John Howard Society in response to hate groups. According to a report released last month, Hamilton has the highest rate of police-reported hate crimes in Canada.
City officials attended rally
Various city officials attended the rally for the first time to show their support, including Eisenberger, and Councillors Jason Farr (Ward 2) and Judi Partridge (Ward 15). They were joined by MP David Christopherson of Hamilton Centre.
Councillors Brad Clark (Ward 9), Maureen Wilson (Ward 1), and Nrinder Nann (Ward 3) had all attended Saturday rallies before.
The crowd had a mixed reception to Eisenberger, who has been criticized by some for the city's slow response to the violence at Pride. Eisenberger said that at some level, he understands where people are coming from.
"We're doing everything humanly possible to stamp out hate in our community," he said. "That effort will continue, whether I'm being criticized or not."
Eisenberger added that he will be meeting with police and individuals from the LGBTQ community and will be creating an anti-hate forum in the fall.
Councillors had previously asked the city manager to investigate ways to stop yellow vesters and far-right groups from gathering at city hall's forecourt. Before attending, Clark posted on Twitter to share the message that "large peaceful anti-hate rallies" are the best way to fight hate.
Reached out to some experienced NGOs who have been fighting hate in large Canadian cities. The consistent recommendation is to encourage large peaceful anti-hate rallies. Their response to me based on their experience (see below) was very telling. See you tomorrow!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NoHateinHammer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NoHateinHammer</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZHcAutXP0j">pic.twitter.com/ZHcAutXP0j</a>—@BCouncillor
Protests and counter-protests involving hate were on the agenda at Monday's general issue committee meeting.
One anti-hate protestor arrested
In a video posted to Facebook, police are seen removing a man from a group of activists and yellow vesters by the rainbow crosswalk on Main Street.
The group surrounding him hold signs that say "Trudeau must go", "God Bless Canada", and "life is better with all the colours."
As police led the protestor away from the dwindling crowd, others decried their actions. "You've got to be kidding me," yelled a woman into a megaphone. Other chants of "bigots in blue" overlapped with cries of "bye."
Graham Crawford, a rally attendee, said that the protestor had been dancing in the intersection when the light turned red for traffic.
Protestors have condemned Hamilton police for arresting protestors and members of the LGBTQ community at anti-hate rallies and after a violent confrontation at the city's Pride festival, which left several injured. A fight broke out at Pride between attendees, pink-masked anarchists, and religious protestors who showed up with homophobic signs.
School bus drives onto sidewalk
Earlier in the rally, a school bus with an Alberta license plate pulled up onto the sidewalk and parked in front of a group of anti-hate protestors. Crawford said the bus had signs in its windows that talked about "foreigners" and that the driver was wearing body armour and military fatigues.
Crawford said that Hamilton police negotiated with the driver for over 30 minutes and that the anti-hate crowd urged it away from the sidewalk with a chant of "get it out of here."
"They were defiant," he said. "[The driver] was trying to make a point and people would have none of it."