A peaceful rally is being planned for Saturday in front of Hamilton city hall as a response to violence at the city’s Pride event last month.
Pride Hamilton and several community partners have organized the rally, dubbed “Hamilton For Who?“, as a “peaceful, non-violent, family-friendly response” to both the violent disturbance at Hamilton Pride, as well as ongoing far-right protests in the forecourt of city hall on Saturdays.
Speaking on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show, Cameron Kroetsch of Pride Hamilton said it’s a positive and peaceful way of taking up space in front of city hall.
“The idea is just to create a space where we can openly celebrate and have allies come out and show their support,” said Kroetsch. “Because a lot of people have been asking and saying things like, ‘Well, what can we do?'”
“I know that many groups have been going down to counter what have been normal activities in the forecourt with Yellow Vests and such, and so this seems like a way to begin to show that solidarity and support from the wider community.”
The rally is planned as a family-friendly event, with performances, banner and sign-making, a social media selfie booth, and activities for kids.
In a release, Pride Hamilton said they chose not to schedule any political speeches and are focusing on “celebrating our power and solidarity through art”.
Some of the community partners involved in organizing the event include the Hamilton and District Labour Council, Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local, the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, and Environment Hamilton.
The rally follows a tense Pride month in Hamilton, beginning with the city’s LGBTQ2 advisory committee passing a unanimous motion to cancel the raising of the Pride and trans flags at Hamilton city hall.
During Hamilton Pride at Gage Park on June 15, a group of far-right protesters attacked Pride supporters. Several members of the city’s LGBTQ2 community criticized Hamilton police and the city for how they responded to that violence, and a group of people staged a demonstration in front of Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s house, erecting signs that read “Mayor Doesn’t Care About Queer People”.
Following that development, Eisenberger appointed two special advisers on LGBTQ2 issues in the city, but that move was criticized by advocates who said the mayor should be consulting with the existing LGBTQ2 advisory committee.
“This has been a really hard time,” said Kroetsch. “A lot of people have expressed that there has been a real reduction in the safe feeling that already didn’t exist in Hamilton for folks in the community through all this. But what I’m starting to see too is a lot of community resiliency.
“I’m seeing a lot of people coming together. I’ve seen solidarity. I’m seeing new friendships and new relationships emerging in the community.”
WATCH: (June 28, 2019) Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn
Kroetsch added there needs to be more progress made on amplifying the voices of marginalized people within the LGBTQ2 community so that the dialogue includes a diverse range of opinions.
“I’ve got lots of privilege and access, so people turn to me to ask questions. But what can I do better to say, ‘Hey, pass the baton to someone else. Let this person speak.'”
Saturday’s rally comes after Hamilton city council received a proposal to try to stamp out “hate-related activities” on city properties.
The strategy includes hiring a security investigator for two years who will be trained and tasked with investigating and documenting hate-related activities and criminal behaviour.
The policy also calls for surveillance cameras to be upgraded in the city hall forecourt so evidence collected can be used within the courts.