June 4, 2009

Hamilton cops announce surveillance of progressive movements

By Drew Garvie

On May 19th, Hamilton Police Services presented it's "Year End Hate Crime Report" for 2008, attempting to justify the surveillance of youth and people's movements under "hate crime" pretenses.

According to the report, "several upcoming international, national and local events have been identified as having the potential to impact hate-bias related crime incidents in Hamilton.  These include the [anti-]2010 Olympics [campaign], the 2010 G8 Summit, the anarchist movement and the current economic climate".  

The report goes on to say that organizing taking place around these events will be actively "monitored". 

 The document also includes picture examples of graffiti aimed at police in its section referring to "areas of concern" on which the Hate Crimes Unit should focus (see pg. 11).  This section also refers to the "targeting of corporate sponsers" around the Olympics and cross-Canada "Native land claims issues" as they are raised in the context of the 2010 British Columbia Olympics, held on non-surrendered Indigenous land.

Is this a brazen attempt by the Hamilton Police to justify their criminalization of youth and people's movements by vague references to concern over increased incidents of hate crimes?

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this announcement is that it uses anti-hate crimes language in a manipulative way.  I fully agree that hate crimes are a very real concern.  But the explicit intent to criminalize the progressive forces who have always been at the forefront of anti-racist struggles and struggles for religious tolerance and gay rights, demonstrates the twisted logic underlying the document.

You might say that history has shown that, in the context of an economic crisis, the danger of hate crimes increases. Various marginalized groups become scape-goats in order for the capitalist class to obscure the true root causes of the crisis -- capitalism itself.  Interestingly, the Hamilton Police do point to the economic crisis as an "area of concern" but only cite "anti-government and anti-establishment reaction" to "job losses".

This begs the question: is a movement that understands the systemic roots of the crisis at risk of being charged with "anti-government/ anti-establishment hate crimes" when they point to the real cause of job loses?

The Hamilton police study needs to be put in a broader context of repression faced by youth and allies across this country when they attempt to organize for their rights.  As Rebel Youth has reported, students have been arrested and placed under restrictive bail conditions after taking action against sky-rocketing tuition fees (ie. fourteen arrests brought on by a sit-in at UofT in 2008); Aboriginal activists have been charged when they try and fight for land rights (ie, Caledonia or Shawn Brant of Tyendinaga) or just 'hanging while native'; and community members have been rough-handeled and arrested when they demonstrated against the selling off of our Health Care system (Dr. David Henry and two others, May 2009 in Fort Erie just the other week).

Clearly, with this public document, the Hamilton Police have shown that they are determined to do their part in repressing movements that fight for peace, human rights, equality and social progress.

It is time to step-up demands that our public resources be spent on combating real hate crimes in our communities.  For that to take place, current anti-hate crime laws must be strengthened and enforced, not least hate crimes against the LGBITQ* community which are all too often ignored by police. Further, police must end racial profiling and municipal police, the OPP, RCMP and CSIS be put under public, civilian control.  

At the risk of committing a "hate crime"... No 2010 Olympics, No G8 summit and just settlements to land claims NOW!

Drew Garvie is an activist and member of OPIRG Guelph who campaigns to end the repression of youth and people's movements.
- Comments

1 comment:

  1. Well if riot cops ever show up to incite violence, at a peace demonstration for example, people should just pelt them with donuts.


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