Monday, July 8, 2019
“Who keeps us safe?”
By now, news of the white supremacist attack that took place at Hamilton Pride three weeks ago has spread widely. Far from an isolated incident, it is part of a disturbing escalation in far-right activity that we have been witnessing in the last few years, in our own local communities and around the world. We denounce this and express our support and solidarity with the community members who defended Pride attendees on June 15th, 2019.
First and foremost, we call for the unconditional release and dropping of any charges against the Pride defenders and their supporters. This criminalization of self-defence, which we see again and again from the state, is absolutely unacceptable. It is insulting and blatantly disrespectful that Mayor Fred Eisenberger has now released a statement “commemorating” the Stonewall riots, an uprising against police violence, while Cedar Hopperton remains in jail over fabricated and politically motivated charges. Despite the extensive documentation available online, Detective Sergeant Ben Thibodeau claimed that criminal charges were “difficult” to pursue against the people who attacked Pride without witness testimony, yet the police rapidly mobilized to intimidate and arrest a single queer woman for a protest on June 28. Eisenberger’s actions and those of the Hamilton Police Service show us once again that marginalized people facing violence cannot expect any support from law enforcement. When police and city officials make excuses for white supremacist, anti-2SLGBTQ+ violence, all the while arresting the people who dare oppose it, that white supremacy is state-sanctioned.
On June 26th, 2SLGBTQ+ residents were expelled from a Hamilton city hall meeting after Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla characterized white supremacists as being disenfranchised people struggling with addiction and mental health, suggesting that they are a small fringe group that should be ignored. We denounce these fascist-sympathizing comments as being inaccurate, harmful, and dismissive of the concerns of 2SLGBTQ+ people in this city. As disabled people, we know that mental illness is not the cause or an excuse for the vicious assaults that were perpetrated towards members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Pride. Statistics show that people experiencing mental illness are no more inclined to violence than anybody else, and are if anything, more likely to be victimized. We are also intimately aware of the violence that white supremacy entails. Eugenics programs and other state policies that have historically targeted disabled people, particularly disabled people of colour, are inseparable from white supremacist ideology.
Earlier last month, researchers with McMaster University and the AIDS Network released “Mapping the Void,” a report on the state of the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Hamilton. Nearly 40% of the 906 total survey respondents identified as living with a disability. Anecdotally, our lived experiences within the community strongly suggest that 2SLGBTQ+ people are more likely than the general population to experience disability. We know what it means to be subject to harassment, even assault, for simply daring to exist and live our lives. We deserve to be safe from the threat of violence, whether that be from white supremacist militias or agents of the state itself.
According to “Mapping the Void,” only 10% of respondents who had experienced harassment or violence reported it to law enforcement. Additionally, a third recounted unjust treatment from the police. With events like those of the last few weeks, it should be no surprise that this is the case. Police and the carceral criminal justice system do not prevent harm, but perpetuate it. Rather, it was the power of Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQ+ community that was able to drive away the white supremacists at Hamilton Pride. It is this brave, resilient community, not the state, that we must look towards as we move forward, organizing together for our collective safety and well-being.
Youth Action Council
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
“Mapping the Void: Two-Spirit and LGBTIQ+ Experiences in Hamilton” by Suzanne Mills, Michelle Dion, Daniel Thompson-Blum, Chris Borst, and James Diemert. Released on June 11, 2019: https://labourstudies.mcmaster.ca/documents/mappingthevoid.pdf.
“No victims have come forward after Pride violence: Hamilton police” by Nicole O'Reilly. Published on June 25 in the Hamilton Spectator: https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9452044-no-victims-have-come-forward-after-pride-violence-hamilton-police/.
Survived and Punished, a US-based national coalition to support and free criminalized survivors: https://survivedandpunished.org/.
“The Myth of Violence and Mental Illness” by CMHA Durham. Available online: https://cmhadurham.ca/finding-help/the-myth-of-violence-and-mental-illness/.
“The Saga Continues: Updates on Queer Resistance and Repression in Hamilton” from Anonymous. Posted on North Shore Counter-Info on July 3, 2019: https://north-shore.info/2019/07/03/the-saga-continues-updates-on-queer-resistance-and-repression-in-hamilton/.
Tweet thread about Moka Dawkins and #JusticeForMoka by Maggie’s Toronto. Posted on Twitter on November 6, 2018: https://twitter.com/MaggiesToronto/status/1059944643083857920.
Tweet thread on the City Hall meeting by Samantha Craggs. Posted on Twitter on June 26, 2019: https://twitter.com/SamCraggsCBC/status/1144001275719311360.