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Hamilton police chief seeks meeting with LGBTQ2 residents to ease ongoing tensions

Hamilton's police chief is looking to meet with members of the city's LGBTQ2 community to ease tensions that have increased since violence broke out at Hamilton Pride in June.
Hamilton's police chief is looking to meet with members of the city's LGBTQ2 community to ease tensions that have increased since violence broke out at Hamilton Pride in June. Don Mitchell / Global News Hamilton

Hamilton’s police chief wants to meet with LGBTQ2 residents in order to decrease tensions that have built up since violence broke out at the city’s Pride event in June.

Graham Crawford, Hamilton’s 2018 citizen of the year and LGBTQ2 community member, says Hamilton police sent him an invitation to meet with Chief Eric Girt in order to listen “first-hand” to community concerns and “work together in order to move forward toward a better place.”

Speaking on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show, Crawford says community members have already been extremely vocal about their concerns.

“It’s as if we have not been telling the police what our concerns are,” said Crawford. “There was a big community meeting held in council chambers, at which the deputy chief was present. And the community spoke at length about what their concerns were.”

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He said he wants to be able to ask questions of Girt and Hamilton police at the meeting but is concerned the police will not be open to answering questions from those who attend the meeting on behalf of the community.

“It is critical that the Hamilton Police Service view this as a two-way conversation. Questions get asked, and answers are expected. Because if they want that from us, we have a right to expect it from them.”

READ MORE: Hamilton police board meeting disrupted by shouts, profanity from the gallery

Crawford and other advocates from Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community have been outspoken about how Hamilton police have responded to a number of incidents in the city in the past few months, including the violence at the Pride event in Gage Park on June 15.

The city’s relationship with the community has also been fraught with tension due to the ongoing congregation of far-right protesters and members of hate groups gathering in the city hall forecourt every Saturday for months.

WATCH (June 28, 2019): Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn

Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn
Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn

However, Crawford said several city councillors have started to come out to “anti-hate” rallies that have been held over the past few weekends to counter those protesters.

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“That’s a big show of support,” said Crawford. “It’s a change. That’s a shift. And it’s a shift that people have noticed. And it helps us to also be more flexible and look at opportunities to find that path forward.”

READ MORE: Councillors approve hiring of external project manager for mitigating hate in Hamilton

Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 advisory committee and the Pride Hamilton committee have also been invited to meet with Girt.

No official date has been set for a possible meeting, although Crawford said police have agreed to some crucial conditions to keep the meeting neutral — it will not be held at Hamilton police headquarters and HPS members who attend will not be dressed in uniform.

“If you’re part of a group who has been harassed and challenged by police officers, and that has happened, uniforms don’t necessarily make you feel safe. So it’s just easier, it’s more neutral.”

Crawford says he will likely accept the invitation but says the result of the meeting should be shared with the public to ensure that those who are not in attendance can see that real action is being taken.

“This could be a breakthrough meeting,” said Crawford. “I don’t know. But what I do know … if we don’t meet, we don’t go anywhere. But there are certain conditions that need to be in place to make a meeting productive.”

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“We’ve got to move on. We have to find or create a path forward. We can’t just keep shouting at each other.”