#DropTheChargesHamOnt: Hamilton activists petition crown attorney with majority-Black housing advocates’ case now in court
Published February 15, 2022 at 6:45 pm
The activist community in Hamilton is trying another tack in support of six housing advocates who face criminal charges — writing to the local crown attorney.
Since last Friday, the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, along with partners in the city and across Ontario, are calling on supporters to e-mail the local Crown Attorney’s office to ask for the charges to be dropped against six social justice activists, five of whom are Black. The group were all arrested and charger in late November after supporting unhoused peoople at encampment evictions. Three arrests occurred at a teardown in a central Hamilton park, and three more were made two days later during a related protest at a nearby police station.
Numerous groups and prominent individuals in Hamiliton have called for the charges to be dropped.
On its website, HCCI has included a form that supporters can fill out online. Their message will be sent to area Crown Attorney Janet Booy, the Ministry of the Attorney General and to Dean Paquette, the group’s defence counsel.
“Pursuing these charges will not be in the best interest of the public,” HCCI states.
If you agree plz sign letter to the crown
We are calling on the Crown Attorney's office to drop the charges against Black & Housing advocates. It is not in the public's interest to pursue these charges # DropTheChargesHamOnt #HamOnt https://t.co/oUEyqT3mZd
— Nessa Baby (@Nessamama73) February 15, 2022
— I Heart Hamilton (@ihearthamilton) February 15, 2022
Hamilton activists Sarah Jama and Rowa Mohamed — who have each been open about having court cases — and four others are facing charges. Jama is the co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and is also active and vocal supporter of the Hamilton Encampment Support Network. Last week, Jama was nominated in the YWCA of Hamilton Woman of Distinction awards, which will be presented in early March.
On Nov. 24, housing advocates went to J.C. Beemer Park at Victoria Ave. and Wilson St. in central Hamilton during an encampment teardown following an early-morning fire.
That led to three people being charged with assaulting and obstructing a police officer.
Jama was not taken into custody that day, but two days later, at Beasley Park in Hamilton on Nov. 26.
Protesters and allies then gathered outside of the Hamilton Central Police Station on King William St., which is less than 1 km away from Beemer Park. Three more arrests were made.
A GoFundMe campaign created to support the six defendants has raised $43,295 to help with their legal bills. The last donation was on Feb. 4.
Having the charges dropped is not the sole goal of #DropTheChargesHamOnt. The campaign also includes calls for a judicial inquiry into the actions of all police officers who were present at Beemer Park on Nov. 24 and the central police station on Nov. 26. There is also a call for Hamilton’s elected leadership to cease encampment evictions adversely affecting Black, Indigenous, and low-income residents.
The three calls to action were issued by leaders in Hamilton’s Black community on Dec. 1, five days after the arrests in front of the police station.
Last month, the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which examines any incident where a person is injured or dies during an interaction with police, discontinued its investigation into the injuries a Hamilton woman sustained while being arrested on Nov. 26. The provincial police watchdog concluded on Jan. 18 that the “woman did not, in fact, sustain a ‘serious injury’ within the mandate of the SIU.”
Mohamed has identified herself as the woman whose injury led to the SIU invoking its mandate.
Six days later, the Hamilton Police Services Board decided it did not have the investigative powers to support a judicial inquiry into officers’ conduct.
(Image via Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.)insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising