Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community will be celebrating in the city on Saturday, but uniformed police officers will not be welcome at the event.
This year’s celebration will be held in Gage Park from 11:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine, and will feature live performances, food trucks, and various vendors.
Hamilton police had requested to have a recruitment booth at the event, but Pride Hamilton acting president Terri Wallis said their answer was no.
“The relationship between the queer community and Hamilton police … unfortunately hasn’t been very good over time, and still isn’t,” said Wallis. “There have been some attempts to fix that, but not very strong ones.”
The organization wanted to consult with members of the LGBTQ2 community before they allowed police to have a presence at the event, Wallis explained, because it’s supposed to be a time of celebration for people who often experience marginalization in their day-to-day lives.
“We want Pride to be a time when people can come together and feel safe, and feel comfortable, and be proud, and just celebrate who we are,” said Wallis. “We want that to be a very friendly, very open, very safe and secure environment. And we feel that if the police were present, that wouldn’t happen.”
There was also a concern that people wouldn’t show up if they felt the environment was unsafe.
A recently published study conducted by a grassroots group of members from the city’s LGBTQ2 community, which surveyed more than 900 people from within Hamilton’s queer community, found that one-third of respondents felt they had been unjustly treated by the police. Transgender respondents, in particular, were more likely to experience interactions with police in which they didn’t feel safe.
“If members of the Hamilton Police force want to show up at Pride, they’re more than welcome, but they cannot show up in uniform,” said Wallis, adding that they may call on police to do their job if protesters become disruptive or threatening.
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This year’s Hamilton Pride event will feature more than a dozen live performances, including headliner Carole Pope.
The theme of the event is “Liberation”, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which were a series of demonstrations from members of the LGBTQ2 community after police raided a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The event is widely considered to have been a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement.
Wallis, who uses a power wheelchair, also stressed that the event will be fully accessible, including easy-to-read signage, displays and programs, and a number of fully accessible restrooms.
“We want everybody to be able to enjoy Pride.”