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Hamilton council creates bylaw to prohibit ‘interference’ during protests on city property

Hamilton city council has enacted a new bylaw aimed at countering hateful protests on public property. Will Erskine / Global News

Councillors in Hamilton continue to take aim at protests held in front of city hall as council has enacted a new bylaw and begun a search for a consultant to help the city mitigate potential hate-related incidents.

The city already has a bylaw in effect dealing with vulgar language and acts of violence, however Hamilton’s general issues committee took further steps on Wednesday, adding rules that prohibit “interference with the operation of a city premises and/or interference with others’ use of a city premises.”

The new bylaw also prohibits the “contravention of a City of Hamilton policy governing the conduct of persons entering city premises.”

READ MORE: Council will ask courts to ban protesters who ‘disseminate hatred’ at Hamilton City Hall

Individuals who break the new bylaw rules could be banned from city property for anywhere from seven days to a few years or, in the worst cases, indefinitely.

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“This does not end hate in Hamilton, but it’s certainly an opportunity for us to add another tool to the opportunity to quell what is going on,” Mayor Fred Eisenberger said during discussions on the bylaw.

READ MORE: Hamilton city council easing up on protest rules for city hall forecourt

Wednesday’s decision comes in the wake of a violent altercation that occurred during Hamilton Pride at Gage Park on June 15 involving a group of far-right protesters and Pride supporters. Several members of the city’s LGBTQ2 community later criticized Hamilton police and the city for how they responded to the incident, spawning a number of followup Saturday morning protests at city hall involving members of both LGBTQ2 and far-right groups.

In July, councillors drafted a policy that included rules for city hall forecourt, spelling out what people can and can’t do during protests as the gatherings began to increase on the weekends.

The first draft took aim at banning sound-amplifying equipment such as megaphones, sidewalk chalk, food and beverages as well as the act of handing out fliers.

However, the policy was later “eased” by council when civil liberties experts warned the original list was unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge.

The city is now also searching for a consultant to provide advice on how it can alter its current policies and procedures in order to mitigate potential hate-related incidents in the city.

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READ MORE: 4th person arrested in connection with Hamilton Pride disturbance — police

That idea was mulled over by council in late September, and it was suggested an adviser begin a dialogue with other jurisdictions on how they deal with protests.

At the centre of those discussions was London, Ont., which recently amended its nuisance bylaw to address numerous complaints about a pair of local street preachers by prohibiting interference of another person’s use and enjoyment of a public space.

City staff have been reaching out to other Ontario municipalities with policies and procedures on how to handle hate-related gatherings.

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

Once hired, it’s expected the new consultant will start in mid-November and produce a plan for review by the city in September 2020.

The process would begin with a review of policies and procedures before mapping out a public engagement plan for council to review in late December and early January.

Once approved, a full plan would come back to council in September 2020.

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