For about an hour during the afternoon of November 24 at Hamilton’s J.C. Beemer Park, police officers violently attacked allies of its unhoused residents who were encamped there. Two Black youth were punched in the face, another dragged through the grass; officers planted their knees on necks, and employed chokeholds.
“Don’t let them say it was a shoulder pin,” said Rowa Mohamad, who was pushed to the ground and had her hijab ripped off. “The man put the full weight of his knee and his body onto my neck and my head.”
The members and volunteers of the Hamilton Encampment Support Network (HESN) were there since the morning following a fire that destroyed the homes of several residents of the park. There to support the residents who were now facing an eviction notice, they were met by police violence, with two allies arrested.
Two days later, in protest of these actions as well as of the arrest of another member of HESN, Sarah Jama, community members met at the Hamilton Police Services station. Dozens of police officers met them, again attacking Black youth, pinning one to the ground, and planting a knee on the neck of another.
Within three days, Hamilton police assaulted, arrested, and charged six people. Five of them are Black youth.
Today, CUPE Ontario’s 280,000 members join with others in saying that the charges must be dropped immediately. The racist police violence against Black youth must never be repeated. That we condemn the actions taken to arrest members of HESN. And that violent displacements of our unhoused community members must never be an option.
We also back up our words with a contribution. CUPE Ontario’s Executive Board has proudly sent a significant contribution to the legal defence fund for the members of HESN and we emphatically encourage others who oppose racist police violence to contribute as well.
And, finally, we remind front-line workers who find themselves directed by their employer to take part in removals of our unhoused neighbours that they have the right to refuse work that endangers their life and someone else’s. And we remind front-line workers and everyone that forcibly separating people from their homes undeniably endangers lives.
Encampment residents, allies, Black youth, and workers alike deserve better than racist police violence.