Special Report: Extremism

Take Down That Flag: An Open Letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger

No one should confuse Hamilton as a safe place to be trans or queer or a person of colour.

By Dakota Lanktree
Published June 17, 2019

Dear Mayor Fred Eisenberger,

I find myself very much wishing that I didn't have to write this. First, it's important that you understand that I don't hold you personally accountable for all of the ills of our city, but we do have to talk.

There has been a hate group growing under your nose, right on the doorsteps of our City Hall. I've even been told that they get permits for their Saturday gatherings, and they've been there for about nine months.

Now, to be really clear - because it sometimes causes confusion when one speaks of Nazis at Hamilton City Hall - I'm speaking of the Yellow Vests, who have been more recently joined by Proud Boys, Canadian Nationalists, 3%ers, Soldiers of Odin, and other hate groups.

I'm not referring to the fellow who used to run the Heritage Front and is still on our payroll. I write our payroll, because I really do think of this as our city. We're in this together. And, I'm worried that in some ways you're not keeping up your end of things.

Not to make this about me, but I'm a recently out and transitioning trans woman. In many ways, a lot of the fears that I had built up about coming out were very thankfully unfounded, and I think I'm doing really well with it.

One fear that I had to act on was moving out of the core of our city because I was afraid. I was afraid of the violence that happens to trans and queer people in our city. I was right to be afraid, and the safety and security of all of the people of Hamilton is something that I know you care about.

Perhaps you just don't realize what it's like for folks who are at risk. But, I need you to know that this hate group on your doorstep assaulted some really good people this past weekend at the Pride festival. They did so last weekend too. And the weekend before.

Now, you've surely heard that the Pride Committee didn't give the Hamilton Police Services a booth at Pride this year and last year. This is because we LGBTQ2S+ folk are sometimes (with reason) afraid of the police.

This is particularly true of members of this community who are people of colour. I'm sure you recall all of that carding business. It's not just a statistical problem, it's a feet-on-the-ground, real-life problem as well. And it has not been fixed.

Anyway, it's this kind of thing that leaves vulnerable folks feeling uncomfortable about reporting crimes against them. I'd like to tell you about a few of them, if you'll bear with me.

Roving bands of fascists were stalking through the streets of Hamilton, Fred. They were chasing down children who were going home from Pride. They posted videos of themselves doing this.

I worry about what happens next week. Hamilton has a zero tolerance for violence policy in public spaces, right? Right?

It has been 50 years since Pride began. And that makes me cry, because, we really, really still need it. You see, the peaceful manner in which it happens belies the fact that Pride was born of protest against a corrupt police force that was abusing Trans* and Queer folks.

We stood up for ourselves then, and we did so on Saturday. Not against the police, of course. I mean against the hate group that grew on your doorstep. They came out, and a group of folks stopped them from coming into the crowds of Hamiltonians who were there because we can feel safe together.

See, now I'm really crying. I don't quite know how to describe that feeling, of feeling safe, when it's a rare feeling for you. I don't feel it often, but I felt it there. And, part of that feeling was ripped from all of us.

I publicly criticized you a few weeks ago about the intention to raise the Pride flag at our City Hall. The flag means that it's a safe place. That flag symbolizes a great deal, and one of those things is safety for folks like me.

I don't think you deserve to have it, and I'd like you to take it down. I don't want anyone confusing Hamilton as a safe place to be trans or queer or a person of colour. It's not fair to lie to us with that flag.

This past Saturday, we saw very clearly that a hate group has arisen right in front of our City Hall. First of all, I need you to actively realize that, and show us that you see it. Then I need you to fix it.

I know that's a lot. But you're the damn Mayor. Do better. I saw your tweets on the weekend and read your statement. Soft words are not enough in this. Do something to make it so that Hamilton flying the Pride flag isn't just lip service.

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