[Image: One of 6 youth activists being violently arrested by Hamilton Police Services]
On November 24th and 26th, Hamilton Police Services (HPS) violently arrested six community members supporting encampment residents at J.C. Beemer and Beasley Parks. Of these six youth activists, five are Black. We are raising money to help cover the prohibitive legal costs incurred as a result of this injustice. The police are targeting these youth to disrupt the demand for housing in Hamilton.
The situation first escalated at J.C. Beemer Park on Wednesday the 24th, where two community members who had come out to support encampment members were arrested. Two days later on November 26th, another community member, Sarah Jama, was present at an encampment eviction being undertaken by Hamilton Municipal Law Enforcement (HMLE) at Beasley Park when HPS officers placed her under arrest for offering encampment support.
In response to Sarah’s arrest, community members rallied in front of Hamilton Police Services Central Station, where Sarah was later released. In solidarity with encampment residents — and to call attention to the violence that encampment residents are subjected to in the height of an expanding housing crisis in Hamilton — demonstrators remained on-site and began setting up for a peaceful demonstration. Their equipment included speakers (for speeches) and one empty tent.
Immediately, over 30 police officers came out of the station, formed a line, and pushed protestors onto the sidewalk. The claim was that demonstrators were trespassing. They demanded that the supplies, and specifically the empty tent, be removed from the property within 15 minutes. As community members began to clean up and relocate their supplies, a police officer violently lunged at a Black youth that was helping with the teardown. He was tackled, pinned to the ground with his face against the cement, and arrested. As community members approached to try and help the youth who was assaulted by the police, officers made violent grabs at other Black youth who were helping clean up. Two more Black youths were arrested, one of whom was also violently assaulted, had their hoodie ripped off, and was pinned to the ground with an officer’s knee on their neck. It is important to note that there were two white demonstrators who were also grabbed by police officers, but they were quickly released and either was arrested. There remains little doubt then that the arrests of the 4 Black youth were intentional and targeted.
These arrests and the recent string of encampment evictions occurring in the last two weeks are taking place exactly one year after housing advocates, unhoused community members and supporters occupied the forecourt of Hamilton City Hall for two weeks. This occupation, known to many as Freedom Camp, was a direct response to the First Ontario Centre and Ferguson teardowns that occurred in October 2020. Following these teardowns, it was clear that the City was not providing real solutions to the housing crisis that they have manufactured. The foundations for the Hamilton Encampment Support Network, a group that works primarily with encampment residents on the ground to offer support where needed, were laid during the two-week occupation. Violent encampment teardowns and the criminalization of the unhoused and their supporters in Hamilton have been going on for over a year.
This past week has seen numerous encampment teardowns or notices of teardowns at parks across the City of Hamilton - Bishop park, J.C. Beemer, Redhill, Beasley. There are very few encampments remaining. It is unclear where residents of encampments have gone or are planning on going in the coming winter months. We have since been in contact with residents from J C Beemer and Beasley since the events this week. Though they were given a bed indoors for a few days, they will be forced to leave, and plan to set up in a park again. We have delivered food and clothes to them during their short stay indoors because these have not been supplied. Residents who are disabled also need very specific support that is not currently being provided. This destruction of encampment communities across the city will come at a high cost - there will be blood on the City’s hands. For many, shelters are not an option - service restrictions prevent many people from accessing shelter beds. Shelter beds are not a substitute for permanent housing and the fixation on temporary shelter space has been reflective of the City’s systematic failure to house people in free, permanent accessible housing.
In total this week, the Hamilton police assaulted, arrested, and charged 6 people, 5 of which are Black youth. Two people have been charged with obstruction of justice, one with assaulting a police officer and 3 with both assaulting a police officer and obstruction of justice. Five of the six arrested were released on the condition that they will not return to any public parks or encampments. These conditions are deeply troubling and an attempt to disrupt and quell the solidarity and support that the Hamilton Encampment Support Network has been offering to encampment residents across Hamilton. They exist to stop people from working alongside encampment residents.
You can read more about the timeline of events through the Hamilton Encampment Support Network’s statement
You can follow Hamilton Encampment Support Network on Twitter
I am helping to raise this money on behalf of Sarah Jama, Rowa Mohamed, and the other four harmed youth activists from the events on November 24th and 26th. The funds raised from this GoFundMe will be equally distributed amongst the six activists harmed by HPS ($5000 per youth activist) to pay for legal fees from this event. The money raised here will be sent directly to Sarah Jama to distribute amongst the activists harmed on Nov 24th/26th.