VIDEOS: Hamilton activists call on city to defund police, support social programs


Published June 2, 2020 at 8:23 pm

Hamilton was the backdrop for a stunning livestream series whereby activists call on a number of Hamilton institutions to put an end to systemic discrimination against Black and Indigenous people.<

Hamilton was the backdrop for a stunning livestream series whereby activists call on a number of Hamilton institutions to put an end to systemic discrimination against Black and Indigenous people.

On Tuesday (June 2) Black Lives Matter Toronto provided the platform via Twitter for a number of Hamilton activists to issue a coordinated call on the community to break the pattern of racism in the city.

In the first of the videos, organizers outside Hamilton City Hall, called on the city to “defund Hamilton police,” and to focus spending on social programs.

“Black and Indigenous people are not safe in cities,” one activist said, adding that they are speaking out in solidarity with other activists across Canada and the world who “resist ongoing colonialism.”

They said the demands they’re presenting must be taken seriously to address the root causes of the issue of systemic racism.

“We call on the city of Hamilton to defund the police,” the first of the demands states, and as part of that using the money that would have gone to HPS to put towards programs that address food security, racism and housing affordability.

In the U.S. this concept of defunding the police has become an important facet in police reform advocacy. The idea is to take some or all of the money communities use for policing and put it towards more robust mental health supports, accessible health care, job creation and other social services to support vulnerable communities.

“There are alternate ways to keeping communities safe,” Hamilton’s activists said in the video Tuesday, pointing out that through the pandemic and the recent protests, Black communities “are showing up for one another to keep each other safe and share resources, space, time and energy.”

The group also calls on the abolition of prisons “because it is the only way to ensure that our communities are not broken up and divided.

“Prisons do nothing to heal. They only serve the state [whose] interests are anti-Black and anti-Indigenous.”

The first live stream ends with activists demanding the City of Hamilton stop police from ticketing homeless people

The second video features Sarah Jama, a well-known local activist outside HPS Central station.

Jama’s message is similar to the previous live stream: defund and demilitarize the police.

“Hamilton Police has a history of hiding behind a guise of pseudo-multiculturalism whenever called out [for discriminatory practices],” she said.

She called for a moratorium on the hiring of police constables and for Hamilton Police to cease extensive surveillance practices of racialized and vulnerable members of the community and people who speak out against them.

In a third video, outside MPP Andrea Horwath’s office, activists called on the reform of the province’s police watchdog: the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

The group says despite the presence of this ‘oversight’ body, “police continue to be the gatekeepers of state-sanctioned racism.”

They suggest that investigations should be carried out by members of the community that is being impacted by the investigations and should include Black, racialized, or Indigenous members of the community who have no history with or connection to policing.

This video ends with a call for reforms to establish “transformative justice practices.”

Several young activists gathered outside the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s (HWDSB) headquarters to call for the end to the Student Resource Officer Program (SRO).

The program has come under scrutiny recently after a report in February called for the discontinuation of the program.

The report, titled Deconstructing Racism and Islamophobia, was written based on the written complaints and discussions with HWDSB students and staff.

The group of youth activists said Tuesday that they have felt threatened by the presence of police in their schools and that their continued presence “has become an overused threat against Black students.”

They say police are used as a scare tactic and they have experienced harassment by police on school property.

The final video, filmed outside the McMaster University Campus, issued a call for the university to cancel the contract of Glenn DeCaire, a former chief of Hamilton Police, who currently heads security at Mac.

Decaire introduced the practice of carding in Hamilton and has also been criticized for his handling of race and diversity issues.

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