Racist slurs and re­ac­tion from po­lice rile cou­ple

‘We don’t ar­rest peo­ple for saying bad words’ pair told af­ter fac­ing down trio curs­ing chil­dren

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - Su­san Clairmont’s com­men­tary ap­pears reg­u­larly in The Spec­ta­tor. sclair­mont@thes­pec.com 905-526-3539 | @su­san­clair­mont

The cou­ple felt the po­lice didn’t care about the racist slurs aimed at chil­dren. Or the beat­ing they took for valiantly try­ing to stop it.

In fact, Danielle Wong and Brett Klassen were made to feel they were the prob­lem by the of­fi­cers they called for help.

The con­fronta­tion and re­sponse by Hamil­ton po­lice played out on Twit­ter over the week­end.

“I got punched for the first time in my life tonight, but what re­ally broke my heart was my in­ter­ac­tion with po­lice af­ter the as­sault.” — Wong on Twit­ter Her tweets sparked out­rage. “If that wasn’t deemed a Hate Crime by HPS then I can only imag­ine how un­der re­ported Hate crimes re­ally are in the city.” — Matthew Green, Hamil­ton’s first black city coun­cil­lor, re­spond­ing on Twit­ter.

Let’s start with 12:20 a.m. Sun­day. The bus stop out­side 181 John St., be­tween Can­non Street East and Robert Street, where Wong lives. She is an English and cul­tural stud­ies PhD can­di­date at McMaster Univer­sity and a for­mer Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor re­porter. She was saying good­night to her boyfriend, Klassen, who is in sec­ond year of phi­los­o­phy and cul­tural stud­ies at Mac and co-chair of the Beasley Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion.

They no­ticed a woman and two men, one of whom was drunk.

The trio — white and in their early 20s — yelled to four or five young chil­dren playing on two bal­conies of Wong’s build­ing. The chil­dren were black. The high­rise is home to many

So­mali new­com­ers.

“You’re all adopted,” the trio shouted to the chil­dren. “All Mus­lims need to get out. … I’m go­ing to rape your sis­ters.” The “n” word was used. Klassen and Wong ap­proached the trio. Klassen shook hands with one of the men.

“Sound like you’re saying some racist things,” he said.

“I am racist,” the woman an­swered.

“I’m just try­ing to have a good time,” the drunk man an­swered.

Klassen sug­gested they should leave. The drunk guy sug­gested he should knock Klassen out.

Wong called 911. The woman ran away and the men be­gan punch­ing Klassen in the throat, face and stom­ach.

Wong in­ter­vened, tak­ing a punch to the ear that sent her to the ground, break­ing her phone. Wong and Klassen say they did not hit back. Both had mi­nor in­juries.

The men fled and a mo­ment later a constable ar­rived. “What do you want out of this?” he asked.

They did not want as­sault charges laid, but did want po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate the slurs as a hate crime.

“We don’t ar­rest peo­ple for saying bad words,” the of­fi­cer an­swered.

“These aren’t just bad words,” Wong per­sisted. “They said ‘We’re go­ing to rape your sis­ters.’ ”

A fe­male of­fi­cer now on scene told Wong ‘You need to lose the at­ti­tude.’ ”

The men were caught. The male of­fi­cer called one “a crack­head re­tard,” ac­cord­ing to Wong and Klassen.

His de­scrip­tion stunned and sick­ened them.

“I was livid. Out­raged,” says Klassen.

Fast for­ward to 8 p.m. Wong, now home, gets a call. The male constable and his sergeant are down­stairs. Can they come up?

“I was scared,” says Wong. “I didn’t know if I was in trou­ble for some­thing. … I had an inkling it was be­cause I was tweet­ing.”

In­deed, the sergeant said the ser­vice’s cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tor had seen her tweets.

Wong says the sergeant was po­lite and apol­o­gized for the “un­pro­fes­sion­al­ism” of his of­fi­cers.

They dis­cussed the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of a hate crime. Wong felt this in­ci­dent fit. The sergeant did not.

The Crim­i­nal Code of Canada says a charge can be laid against: Ev­ery one who, by com­mu­ni­cat­ing state­ments, other than in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion, wil­fully pro­motes ha­tred against any iden­ti­fi­able group.

As for the “crack­head re­tard” com­ment?

“There’s some po­lice jar­gon we use that we shouldn’t use in front of civil­ians,” the sergeant told Wong.

He gave her a pam­phlet ex­plain­ing how to file a com­plaint to the Of­fice of the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Re­view Di­rec­tor (OIPRD).

Wong and Klassen are unaware of any hate crime or as­sault in­ves­ti­ga­tion tak­ing place. They have not yet de­cided if they will file a com­plaint. So they are puz­zled by a state­ment me­dia of­fi­cer Const. Asuf Khokhar sent to The Spec in re­sponse to an in­ter­view re­quest: “As this mat­ter is in the in­ves­tiga­tive stages it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment fur­ther at this time to en­sure the in­tegrity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

“My heart was break­ing for those chil­dren who were hear­ing those words,” says Klassen. “The re­sponse from po­lice was not what I hoped for.”

SU­SAN CLAIRMONT

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