The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Matthew Green (Member of Parliament for Hamilton Centre), and Wade Poziomka and Jennifer Zdriluk, partners in the Human Rights Group at Ross & McBride LLP stand in solidarity with those in our community exercising their right to peaceful protest in our community over the past two days to support those in encampments with no options. We echo the concerns of Councillor Nrinder Nann posted on social media today wherein Councillor Nann stated:
“Very troubling footage this week of excessive use-of-force by Hamilton Police. Last year, stats showed disproportionate use against black resident in Hamilton. This is counter to the City’s Safety & Wellbeing Plan and breaks trust. It is not enough to say systemic racism exists”.
Peaceful protest is a hallmark of a free and democratic society. It must not be criminalized. We call upon the Hamilton Police Service to exercise proper restraint, de-escalate community tension and ensure that those engaged in peaceful demonstrations are permitted to exercise that right. Violent interactions with police will only serve to further the divide that exists between police and community. Public resources are better utilized addressing the root problems – such as a lack of affordable housing and community support – than fighting those attempting to show support to vulnerable members of our community.
We call for the immediate release of those taken into custody. Community support and protest must not be criminalized. We encourage Chief Bergen to take steps to ease police enforcement measures as community tension escalates. We encourage supporters to join those in peaceful protest to highlight the concern around recent police escalation.