Long shadow of 2019 violence still affecting Pride Hamilton this year

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Image: Digital Pride Hamilton. Used with permission

This year's Pride celebrations all over the country are very different from years past because of COVID-19. It's taking a lot of creativity, amidst a whole bunch of disappointment to create celebrations which can't include getting together in person.

A lot of festivals are going online. Pride Hamilton just had its online festival online this past Sunday, June 14. This year's festival would have been different in tone regardless of COVID-19, because of violence that broke out at last year's festival that the LGBTQ2s communities are still grappling with.

On today's show, rabble radio host Victoria Fenner talks to Cameron Kroetsch of the Pride Hamilton board of directors. They talk about what happened last year, and its effect on Pride Hamilton this year. There have been demands for accountability from the police and city hall ever since last year's Pride, and the police actions have cast a long shadow over the past 12 months. The topic of defunding the police is something that is especially relevant in Hamilton this month.

Here's a brief recap of what happened last year -- a group of protesters, some with fundamentalist religious beliefs and others associated with the yellow vest movement, also came to Gage Park where Pride Hamilton was being held. Their intention was to disrupt the festival. Violence broke out, several people were injured, and the police did not intervene. Those defending the police say it's because they weren't ready for it. But a lot of other people believe the police stood back because they chose not to get involved.

There have been many reports done -- an independent report released just last week on June 8, called Pride in Hamilton – An Independent Review Surrounding Hamilton Pride 2019, commissioned by Hamilton Police Services Board, also draws the conclusion that the response by the police fell far short of what it should have been.

To quote the report, written by lawyer Scott Bergman, "On June 15, 2019, homophobes, white supremacists and organized agitators disrupted Hamilton Pride 2019. Their activities could reasonably have been anticipated by police, but they weren't. As a result, the police response was inadequate -- before, during and after the event."

But, despite the after effects from last year, Cameron Kroestch says it was a great online Pride Hamilton Festival this year. Though it was hard not to be able to celebrate in person, they discovered a whole bunch of new ways to engage with the community. The discussions with the city and the Hamilton police board about last year and ongoing issues will continue.

Image: Digital Pride Hamilton. Used with permission

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