Hamilton

2 Hamilton councillors calling for independent review in police response at Pride

Maureen Wilson and Nrinder Nann say the matter needs "an independent investigation."

Maureen Wilson and Nrinder Nann say the matter needs 'an independent investigation'

Only one city councillor so far says he'll publicly probe police on the response to violence at Hamilton's Pride festival. (Imgur)

Two Hamilton city councillors are calling for an independent investigation into how police responded to violence at a recent LGBTQ Pride festival. 

Maureen Wilson and Nrinder Nann met with the chief, deputy chief and other members of the Hamilton Police Service, they said in a joint statement Friday.

It lasted two hours, they said, but they're still concerned about how police were deployed at the June 15 event. They're also worried, they said, about the "fractured relationships" between police, the city and LGBTQ Hamiltonians.

"We take what happened at the Hamilton Pride celebration very seriously," they said. And "we are deeply troubled by the rise of hate in our city."

Wilson (Ward 1, west end) and Nann (Ward 3, central lower city) say they also want police to create an "engagement protocol when preparing safety and security measures." They also want police to do a "community-led review" of hate crimes and hate-based investigations "to improve service delivery for victims of hate-based activity."

How much the board will support this idea remains to be seen. Coun. Chad Collins (Ward 5), a member of the police board, said he doesn't support a review. Mayor Fred Eisenberger didn't respond to the question this week, but said on Twitter that he set up the meeting between Nann, Wilson and police.

The Pride matter "will also be addressed at the upcoming police board meeting for all the members of the board and the community," he said in a tweet.

Tom Jackson, Ward 6 (east Mountain) councillor, who also sits on the board, said he "will be vigilant in questioning and probing and dissecting the findings of what our HPS did (or did not) and why."

At the Pride event, a group of Christian extremists attended with homophobic signs and a loud speaker. A group of people in pink masks counter-protested, covering the homophobic signs with a portable barrier. That led to shoving, scuffling and eventually punching. Video even shows an anti-Pride protester hitting multiple people in the face with a helmet. Police say several people were injured.

Four people have been charged, including Christopher Vanderweide, 27, of Kitchener, who faces two counts of assault with a weapon. He'll appear in court Monday to set a date for a bail hearing.

Pride Hamilton organizers have criticized police for taking too long to respond to the violence, and for subsequent arrests, most of which have been of people defending the festival. Chief Eric Girt has said police would have deployed differently if they'd been welcome at the event.

Earlier this week, CBC News asked other councillors if they'd support a review. Brenda Johnson, Ward 11 councillor, said she has "complete confidence in our police department. Having said that, I have no problem asking for information on behalf of the public."

City council, she added, has "no jurisdiction on the day-to-day operations of the police."

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, said the question "confuses the public to believe we have authority over the police."

"The board doesn't have authority over the operations of police," he said. "Hence, perhaps you should ask the province who controls everything."

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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