Hamilton Pride celebrations kick off Saturday, police booth still not welcome

As Pride Hamilton prepares for its annual celebration on Saturday, it also wants to "take stock" of where the event is going.

Pride Hamilton honouring Stonewall riots this year, looking to future

The Pride Hamilton event runs from 11:45 to 6 p.m. at Gage Park on Saturday. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

As Pride Hamilton prepares for its annual celebration on Saturday, it also wants to take stock of where the organization is going — and see where its community stands on police at Pride.

The annual Pride event, which features a day of live performances and vendors, will run from 11:45 a.m. to 6 p.m in Gage Park.

Once again, Hamilton Pride did not allow police to have a recruitment booth at this year's event.

The organization made that decision last year, out of respect for people in their community, said ex-chair Sean Cullen, who is no longer involved with the board. "There's some folks, especially queer folks of colour, that have trauma around uniformed officers," Cullen said, acknowledging that he can no longer speak for the board.

The current Hamilton Pride board maintained last year's decision because it wasn't able to have a community conversation before the event, said Cameron Kroetsch, secretary treasurer with Pride Hamilton.

"It's more of a timing decision than anything else," said Kroetsch. "We didn't think it was responsible to make that choice in absence of having that discussion with the community."
Participants at last year's Pride Hamilton event, which was the largest to date. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Several Pride organizations, including Pride Toronto, have asked uniformed police officers not to participate in Pride events in recent years, due to the LGTBQ community's troubled treatment by police throughout history.

Pride and police is an issue "that people feel very strongly about," said Kroetsch. "That's why we want to talk about it."

Planning a summer debrief

Kroetsch said Pride Hamilton plans to debrief with the community this summer, to discuss the organization's relationship with police and "find out where things are now."

The organization also wants to take stock more generally and get input on Pride Hamilton's future. 

Pride Hamilton incorporated at the end of 2018, Kroetsch says, and is looking to grow.

"We really want to make pride a sustainable thing so it's here forever," he said.

A participant at last year's Pride Hamilton event. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

50th anniversary of Stonewall 

Saturday's lineup includes 15 acts and around 90 vendors, the organization says, as well as an after-party at the Absinthe Hamilton bar. Carol Pope will headline the day, with a performance at 2:15 p.m.

This year's Pride theme is "Liberation," marking the 50th anniversary of the violent Stonewall riots in New York City after police raided a gay bar in Greenwich Village.

The "Liberation" theme honours Stonewall's legacy, said Kroetsch, while acknowledging ongoing struggles in the LGTBQ community.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," he said.

Last year about 13 protesters showed up at last year's Pride event. If protests return, organizers plan to do the same thing as last year: drown out their message and try to prevent disruption.