Hamilton Sexual Assault Centre Cancels March


Published September 12, 2019 at 7:54 pm

The Sex Assault Centre for Hamilton and Area (SACHA) announced Thursday (Sept. 12) that they would be cancelling their annual Take Back the Night march slated for Sept. 19.

The Sex Assault Centre for Hamilton and Area (SACHA) announced Thursday (Sept. 12) that they would be cancelling their annual Take Back the Night march slated for Sept. 19.

Traditionally, the march has taken place along one or two lanes of Main Street but this year they were hoping to have four lanes for the march to accommodate the projected turnout.

But at a meeting in August called by the city’s Special Events and Advisory Team and attended by members of police, city workers, SACHA and staff from councillor Nrinder Nann’s office, TBTN organizers were told that the costs to close down the street for the event would be astronomical.

Danielle Boissoneau, the TBTN co-ordinator, said it was a price the non-profit organization couldn’t afford. Containing the march to the usual one or two lanes wasn’t an option either.

“We had feedback from people [claiming] police on bikes were pushing back on people who were trying to expand the march,” said Boissoneau. She explained that they have marshals and organizers who try to work with police to keep things safe, but acknowledges that at the same time, they can’t control the actions of their participants.

A proposed alternate route, that would exit out the back door of City Hall, would have contained the march to one lane and the sidewalk along a far less visible downtown street.

“Even within the context of Taking Back the Night, I think that there are some issues with being in one lane or on the sidewalk,” Boissoneau said. “We really want to make it visible that we’re here and we’re taking back the night and being surrounded by police officers on bikes and being contained to one lane or the sidewalk is not a decision that has a lot of integrity.”

A SACHA blog post from Sept. 12 that outlined the reasons for cancelling the march, details how earlier this month the TBTN committee held a Townhall on Safety. “We wanted to hear right from the community what safety looks like for them,” the blog post says.

“What was interesting was that no one mentioned the police as a place of safety,” the blog post reads. “Our conversations reflected safety within our communities and how we can create it for ourselves.”

It is within this context, and the broader context of the policing issues facing Hamilton as of late, that, Boissoneau says, the decision to cancel was made.

“I’d rather we be showing folks that we don’t have to give in to the pressure to conform to what institutions are demanding,” she said. “So we came up with the option to not march to demonstrate that there are other choices.”

SACHA will still be hosting a gathering on Thursday, September 19 in the City Hall forecourt from 6 to 9 p.m. The theme this year is Joyful Revolution Always and will feature spoken word and musical performance, as well as collaborations with Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Centre.

While the decision to cancel the march was difficult, it was a consensus among the SACHA staff.

“The theme of joyful revolution,” Boissoneau said, “is how are we sustaining our joy despite the difficult decisions we have to make.”

Featured image courtesy SACHA Hamilton’s Facebook. It shows Take Back the Night 2017.

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