'We f-cking see you': Hamilton LGBTQ meeting turns into anger at police

A community conversation for Hamilton's LGBTQ residents became a discussion about Hamilton police Tuesday, with some saying they should work on a better relationship and others telling a deputy chief in the audience to leave.

Some wanted Deputy Chief Frank Bergen to leave, while others defended his presence

Police say several people received minor injuries after an altercation at the Hamilton Pride festival, but no victims or witnesses have come forward.
Several people were injured at the Hamilton Pride festival last weekend. (Imgur)

A community conversation for Hamilton's LGBTQ residents became a heated discussion about Hamilton police Tuesday, with some ordering a deputy chief in the audience to leave and others defending him.

The city's LGBTQ advisory committee organized the event in city council chambers. The group held it after asking the city not to raise the Pride flag this month, saying the city hadn't earned it on a number of fronts.

Some speakers were angry about police response to violence at a Pride festival at Gage Park last weekend, when several people were injured. Officers, Pride organizers said, didn't do enough to keep queer attendees safe.

Cedar Hopperton, a local anarchist and LGBTQ resident, spoke of "having a dozen of my friends come home bloody from Pride."

"I'm not part of any community that includes police," said Hopperton, who was found guilty last year of being a "ringleader" in the Locke Street vandalism by anarchists opposing gentrification. The queer community, Hopperton said, should find the strength to be violent, or its choice to be peaceful will mean nothing.

Police, Hopperton said, target the queer community.

"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)

"I would encourage those people right now sitting at the back to get the f-ck out," Hopperton said, pointing to Deputy Chief Frank Bergen, who sat in uniform and listened at the back of the audience. "We f-cking see you."

Some applauded and echoed Hopperton's words. Others didn't.

'Did any of you ask him?'

"What happened at Pride - I was there myself - was unspeakable. It was not OK by any means," said another attendee. But "how about we start professionally, productively coordinating an effort as a community to try to have open roundtable discussions with Hamilton Police Service, with city hall, with the mayor?"

"Did any of you ask him why he's here in uniform?" Kiel Hughes said of Bergen. "He could be here because he's told to be here to figure out what the police did wrong and how they can make things better."

"That's like you guys telling Black Lives Matter to go home," said Hughes, who is black. "Many white people did, but I'm not telling any of you anything. I understand police have screwed up. But am I holding every white person accountable for their actions of the past? Please think about that."

Bergen and Det. Paul Corrigan of the Hamilton Police Service's hate crimes unit said the anger didn't surprise them. The service is examining its response to Saturday, Corrigan said, to see if it could have done better.

A LGBTQ+ pride rainbow flag and a trans pride flag flying next to each other.
The city is flying the rainbow and transgender pride flags, but didn't hold a ceremony. (CBC)

"Literally, on Sunday people were called in on their days off" to debrief, Corrigan said. 

'We heard the aggression'

Police, he said, talked to Pride organizers beforehand and were trying to let the community lead. And the victims wouldn't talk to police.

The police need a better relationship with the LGBTQ community, Corrigan said. 

"We heard the aggression and we heard what people are unhappy about, and that's fine. We have to listen. We have to change."

Bergen said he wore his uniform because he didn't want to hide. He wanted them to know police are listening.

"I didn't have a goal other than to listen and to learn and to make myself available to those who felt comfortable to approach me," he said.

Rally this weekend

The violence last weekend stemmed from protesters who attended Hamilton Pride. Some were from a religious group that was there last year too, but investigators suggest there were also people there from the yellow-vest movement that's been protesting every Saturday at city hall. Councillors will discuss this morning whether they can stop the weekly protests from happening.

As for the Pride flag, the committee asked the city not to raise it because of the employment of Marc Lemire, former Heritage Front leader who works in the city's IT department. City manager Janette Smith is investigating how Lemire came to be employed there.

Jake Maurice is on Speqtrum Hamilton's civic action team. Three members of council signed a pledge to have more youth on the city's LGBTQ advisory committee, Maurice says, but didn't follow through. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The committee also says the city has taken too long to implement the transgender and gender non-conforming protocol, and has a flawed process in appointing people to its committees. This includes on the police services board.

Issues with how the city appoints people to its committees

For example, at least one LGBTQ committee member says he was reappointed without applying. Meanwhile, a number of young people applied and weren't interviewed. 

Jake Maurice, 22, was among them. He's involved with Speqtrum's civic action team. Two councillors and the mayor signed a pledge during the election to have more youth representation on the committee, Maurice said. But they don't appear to have followed through.

"I hope that the selection process is reopened," he said, "and that it's actually done properly and with consultation."

At least one councillor is interested in that. Nrinder Nann, Ward 3 councillor, was among the group of councillors that chose who sits on the committees. She'll bring a motion forward on July 8 to overhaul the process.

"I was surprised by the process and raised that whenever I could," she said. "And that's about the realm of what I can say publicly."

Meanwhile, some Hamiltonians are planning a rally at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at city hall. It is, the organizers said in a statement, "a peaceful demonstration that organized hatred has no place in our city.

"Anyone wishing to join us is encouraged to bring signs, noisemakers, and a commitment to nonviolent protest. We do not recommend attendees bring their children to this event, and advise that no one arrive or leave alone."


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca