Review of police response to violence at Hamilton Pride 2019 to be released Monday

An independent review into police response to violence at Hamilton Pride last year will be released to the public next week. Will Erskine / Global News

The findings of an independent review into how Hamilton police responded to violence at last year’s Pride festival at Gage Park will be released on Monday.

The report will examine whether police acted too slowly when violent protesters attacked festival-goers last June, and whether the culture of the Hamilton Police Service contributed to how they responded.

It had been scheduled to come out in April, but Toronto lawyer Scott Bergman, who has led the review, had wanted to hold an in-person public meeting for the community to discuss its findings — something that can’t happen during the pandemic.

Cameron Kroetsch, who is a member of Pride Hamilton, was among those who were interviewed for the review.

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He said he’s pleased that the report will be made public to everyone at the same time, but wished it could have happened sooner.

“I’m disappointed it’s taken this long,” said Kroetsch.

“We’re already into Pride month, it’s going to be the 8th of June, and there really isn’t a chance for organizations like Pride — who are all run by volunteers — to respond to this kind of stuff in a meaningful way, to digest it, and to take into consideration the effect when it comes to planning for an event that’s pretty much already locked down.”

COVID-19 has had an impact on every major event scheduled for the foreseeable future due to physical distancing restrictions, and Hamilton’s Pride event is no exception.

Click to play video: 'Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn'
Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn

This year, Hamilton Pride will be a digital event, with performances being livestreamed online between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on June 14.

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Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger called for the Pride and trans flags to be raised at city hall on Monday to mark the beginning of Pride Month, a decision that has been met with mixed reactions from those in the LGBTQ2 community.

Kroetsch said the flag-raising feels like an “empty gesture” from the city, given that the mayor and the police haven’t reached out to try and mend their relationship with the community since the events of last summer.

“Anyone can make a statement. It’s different to back that statement up by doing something about it, and it’s not as if the Hamilton Police Service, or the mayor, or others, haven’t had a whole year to do something if they wanted to contribute in a meaningful way,” Kroetsch said.

Graham Crawford, who also spoke with Bergman and his team for the Pride review, told Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show that he’s not optimistic about it leading to a resolution for LGBTQ2 Hamiltonians, especially after what Crawford calls a “tone-deaf” post on social media from Hamilton Police marking Pride Month.

“The chief is wearing a bulletproof vest, and I’m telling you, what says ‘Happy Pride’ better than a bulletproof vest worn by our chief? What doesn’t he get?” Crawford said.

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“We’ve talked to him about this, this militarization of the police, and it doesn’t help, but he goes ahead and does it again, and again, and again. He just doesn’t get it.”

In February, Hamilton police appointed an LGBTQ2 liaison officer to act as a “conduit” between the community and the police service.

But Kroetsch said that’s not something he feels the community was asking for.

“What they were asking was for better representation on the Hamilton Police Services Board, and they completely ignored that request, and did everything they could to deflect it.”

“So a lot of the words and the platitudes, and the statements and messages about working with the community are rather hollow-sounding. Flag raisings, all these kinds of gestures, don’t mean much if you can’t find a way to connect with the group that this report most obviously impacts.”

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The review will also be discussed during the upcoming virtual meeting of the Hamilton police services board next Thursday.

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