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City issues trespass orders to protestors, removes tents out front of city hall

Protestors pitched tents in the forecourt at Hamilton city hall on Nov. 23, 2020 for a protest calling for a redirection of police funds to mitigate alleged  on-going housing issues in Hamilton.
Protestors pitched tents in the forecourt at Hamilton city hall on Nov. 23, 2020 for a protest calling for a redirection of police funds to mitigate alleged on-going housing issues in Hamilton. Global News File

After warning demonstrators to voluntarily remove tents in front of Hamilton City Hall by the end of the weekend, officials began removing them on Monday morning.

In a social media post, the protestors called out Mayor Fred Eisenberger to “shame” him and the city for taking down tents occupied by “unhoused people.”

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In a release on Monday morning, the city said bylaw officers attended the forecourt, checking on compliance with the field orders issued to demonstrators last week requiring the removal of any tents, structures or equipment.

“If a person refuses to comply with the order and removal requirement, a trespass Notice will be issued to them,” the city said in its statement.

Read more: Protesters in Hamilton city hall forecourt ordered to remove tents by midnight Sunday

The city went on to say it would also enforce provincial COVID-19 orders under the Reopening Ontario Act, prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people.

Last Monday, about 70 plus protestors gathered in front of City Hall and pitched about 18 tents or other structures on the forecourt, according to the city.

They also say they witnessed an assault with a metal bar, captured on a CCTV camera, and two overdoses which paramedics responded to.

On Friday, Mayor Fred Eisenberger told Global News that police have been on-site in recent days and that the move was not an attempt to show force but “uphold the law.”

Eisenberger said he was “not a fan” of tent protests and said that they were simply illegal.

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“Pitching up tents and doing an encampment on city hall, that certainly isn’t allowable under the bylaw and certainly isn’t desirable,” Eisenberger said.

The demonstrators have made several demands, including a 50 per cent reduction to the Hamilton Police Service budget, with money being reallocated toward housing and shelter to keep people from living on the street during the cold winter months.

Read more: 3 charged after Hugs Over Masks protest at Hamilton city hall

In September, the city reported there were 6,200 households on a waitlist for rent-geared-to-income (RGI) assistance in Hamilton.

Sarah Jama, one of the demonstrators, told Global News last week the group is ultimately looking for a “multi-government response” to the city’s alleged housing issues and a solution to house people now.

“We’re not getting anywhere. The mayor keeps saying he’s doing what he can, but he won’t even come downstairs to talk to us,” Jama said on Friday.

On the weekend, the mayor and city manager offered to meet with organizers to discuss their issues. However, the city says the offer was declined.

In recent social media posts, organizers have been asking for the mayor to meet with them in person on the forecourt.

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— With files from Lisa Polewski