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 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
“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.”