Special Report: Extremism

Mayor's Response to Pride Day Violence is Disturbing

We need a Mayor who is a tireless, vocal, and thoughtful fighter for those who need and deserve support when it matters most.

By Graham Crawford
Published June 25, 2019

I voted for Fred Eisenberger in the last election. I donated money to his campaign. I've had the pleasure of his company over cups of coffee more than a few times. I've sought and listened to his perspectives on important topics affecting the current and future health of our city. I've found him to be well-informed, often quite candid, and a pleasure to talk with.

But - and you knew this was coming - I must share my sincere disappointment and frustration with how the Mayor of our City is handling the fallout from the Pride Day violence. I believe that Mayor Eisenberger has really let us down.

I say that as both an engaged resident of Hamilton, and as a gay man who has been involved directly over the past 40 years in the queer struggle against oppression, intolerance, and violence.

I know he wasn't present at the Pride Day festivities, but his response to the well-documented violence (statements and videos) this past Pride Day was both late in coming, and utterly generic when it did come. In fact, his statement was essentially a re-tread of a statement he made about anti-LGBTQ+ violence in 2018, promising to take actions then to ensure it never happened again.

On March 21, 2018, the Spectator reported:

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said it's up to council to be vocal about protecting all citizens from discrimination and racism. "There is no room in our city for any of that," he said.

Councillors unanimously passed a motion to explore "ways and means to mitigate the use of city parks and public places" by hate groups.

Not sure whatever came of that commitment, but given the regular Yellow Vest demonstrations, it looks like nothing happened.

Fast forward to June of 2019 when the Spectator reported:

In response to the weekend violence, Mayor Fred Eisenberger said "hate speech and acts of violence have no place in the City of Hamilton.

"We will be working with Hamilton police and our community partners to discuss what steps we can take together to ensure this never happens again."

Essentially the same words, 15 months apart. As if they were the product of some kind of generic apology generator app.

Then, as is often his preferred method, Fred chose to double down on his tone-deaf position. He now seems to support the version of the story offered by Police Chief Eric Girt that was first stated on CHML's Bill Kelly show, and later reported in the Spectator and on CBC Hamilton, that the response by the police would have been different had they felt welcomed by the Pride Day organizers.

A stunning admission, if you ask me.

In response to criticisms posted on Facebook and Twitter, Eisenberger characterized criticism of the police as a "false narrative". He seems to believe the HPS were there, and would have been there even sooner if they had not had their feelings hurt by Pride Day organizers who wouldn't permit the police to set up the recruitment booth they requested at the event.

Seriously? A recruitment booth? Surely, that has to go down as one of the most tone-deaf requests in the history of Pride Day. Do these people even bother to listen to, read, or reflect upon current events and on history?

I worry that it appears our Mayor has chosen the same "All Our Cops Are Tops" stance as the past Chair of the HPS Board, Lloyd Ferguson, who, when he was stepping down form his position, told the media he regretted the end of carding because it resulted in, "bad guys feeling good about carrying guns again." Thud.

Fred stubbornly chooses to raise the rainbow flag when the LGBTQ+ representatives on his Advisory Committee expressly asked him not to, choosing to ignore the detailed rationale provided by the advisory group, including the continued employment by the City of Hamilton of a nationally-known neo-Nazi in a sensitive IT position. He takes the flag raising to tout all the progress the City of Hamilton has made in support of gay rights.

The tangled City Hall Pride Flag is an apt metaphor for the City's complicated relationship with the LGBTQ+ community (RTH file photo)
The tangled City Hall Pride Flag is an apt metaphor for the City's complicated relationship with the LGBTQ+ community (RTH file photo)

Fred chooses to remain silent when the police publicize their first arrest, Cedar Hopperton, who was arrested for parole violations, but who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Choices matter. So does the sequence of those choices. In this case, the police arrest a member of the queer community while violent perpetrators remain free. Perpetrators for whom we have names, place of residence, video proof, and social media posts bragging about their violent acts.

I'm disappointed in my Mayor. I'm tired of the play-it-down-the-middle strategy I see from his office way too frequently on matters of huge social and civic importance, all wrapped in generic statements that ring hollow and add up to nothing.

On Monday, June 24, Fred told Nicole Martin, CHCH News reporter, that he would not be doing any further interviews on the Pride Day violence. Period. Silence is not what we need from our Mayor.

I don't know how long Fred wants to be Hamilton's Mayor. What I do know is I need a Mayor who is a tireless, vocal, and thoughtful fighter for those who need and deserve support when it matters most.

Come on Fred, it's time.

Graham Crawford was raised in Hamilton, moving to Toronto in 1980 where he spent 25 years as the owner of a successful management consulting firm that he sold in 2000. He retired and moved back to Hamilton in 2005 and became involved in heritage and neighbourhood issues. He opened Hamilton HIStory + HERitage on James North in 2007, a multi-media exhibition space (aka a storefront museum) celebrating the lives of the men and women who have helped to shape the City of Hamilton.

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By williamguyatt (registered) | Posted July 13, 2019 at 13:49:50

Well said.

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