Hours after the city of Hamilton served a trespass order and removed tents belonging to people supporting a defund the police campaign and the homeless, demonstrators left a coffin in front of the mayor’s home.
In a social media post on Nov. 30, demonstrator Rowa Mohamed accused the city and police of conspiring to “violently” remove the encampment in front of city hall that had been downtown since Nov. 23.
“People’s tents were taken down and removed and thrown away in the garbage, their only belongings taken away and unhouse people, people with disabilities, pregnant folks, sick people,” said Mohamed in a Twitter post.
She went on to say the action was in response to Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s refusal to “come out” and meet with his constituents. The coffin was part of a vigil the groups held that they say was to commemorate those who have lost their lives in the cold and to the “hands of police.”
“Due to Fred’s inaction, Eisenberger has blood on his hands. He did not attend that vigil. And so we have brought the vigil here to him,” Mohamed said.
On Monday morning, city bylaw officers issued orders to demonstrators to remove tents, structures and equipment from the forecourt of city hall.
“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.
The city said it was also enforcing provincial COVID-19 orders under the Reopening Ontario Act, prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people.
About 70 protestors gathered in front of City Hall and pitched about 18 tents and other structures, last Monday.
The demonstrators 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.
The mayor told Global News he didn’t actually see the demonstrators, just the coffin.
“I wasn’t aware it was happening,” said Eisenberger, “A neighbour sent me a text and said ‘you know there’s a coffin out front of your house?'”
Eisenberger said he then called the police who began an investigation in the area around King Street East and the Red Hill Valley Parkway.
He went on to say such a protest isn’t a “smart way to highlight a message.”
“It’s unfortunate that these folks are delusional in their thinking in terms of, you know, just taking money from one pocket and putting in another. That isn’t going to work,” Eisenberger said.
The accusation that he did not want to meet with demonstrators is not true, according to the mayor. He said an offer was made by city staff on Thursday to formally meet at city hall.
“They decided they weren’t interested in that,” Eisenberger said.
“They indicated that they wanted it to be on the forecourt with a live stream and cameras on. And you know what, that’s not the kind of confrontation that I was going to be putting myself in the middle of.”