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.
Nabbed from the facebook feed of one of the fascists who came out and assaulted people at Pride today. The folks in the pink masks that were making the black wall are the ones who kept the fascists out of Pride.— Dakota Lanktree (@HamiltonSeen) June 15, 2019
CW: Repeated very aggressive assaults#hamont @FredEisenberger pic.twitter.com/MS7mTK0NoT
I'm sorry to keep dropping garbage, but it needs to be seen. Here are the yellow vests & asshole preachers chasing kids in the street after Pride. This is really not ok.— Dakota Lanktree (@HamiltonSeen) June 16, 2019
Respect to @GilletteMachNo and others for getting this content out there.#hamont #pride @FredEisenberger pic.twitter.com/CcqXA0L9lo
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.
Two weeks ago, at City Hall, a group of 20-30 of these Yellow Vests rushed six counter-protesters. Most were able to get away, but one didn't. She personally asked me not to share the details of her assault.
Last week, at City Hall, a larger group of Yellow Vests and assorted hate groups had joined together. An even larger group of counter-protesters gathered together to let them know that we don't stand for that kind of hate in Hamilton.
I didn't go, and I regret that. But, I didn't go because the Yellow Vests were making threats about following people home and attacking them when they were alone with no witnesses. See, I kind of stick out these days. In the scuffle of it all, multiple counter-protesters were head-butted, dragged about, and assaulted. Right there on your doorstep. I bet you could even look at the footage of it, if you like.
This Saturday, this hate group that grew on your front porch left there, and came to Gage Park, where we were celebrating Pride. I've seen footage of these people punching young women in the face. At least three of them. One of those girls was 15. It was her first Pride. She should have been safe there. She should be safe in our city. I count ten separate very violent assaults in the videos that I've collected and shared.
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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