Festival backers answer poster attack with rainbows and love
‘Love for all’ stickers cover labels opposing feminist, LGBTQ themed shows
The defacement of Hamilton Fringe Festival posters has upset organizers, theatre-goers, civic leaders and others, but it is not a hate crime, according to Hamilton police.
So festival organizers fought back by handing out 300 stickers with a positive message that people can use to obscure the defaced posters of feminist and LGBTQ themed plays.
The defacement — in the form of Biblical verses condemning homosexuality and feminism — first appeared on a few posters downtown on Thursday and then escalated to about a dozen over the weekend, said festival executive director Claire Calnan.
The vandalism was denounced in social media, including a video posted by Coun. Matthew Green.
“As elected officials we must take leadership in strongly condemning intolerance and bigotry whenever and wherever it occurs,” Green told The Spectator.
The Biblical labels partially obscure posters for the plays “Coal from Hades: The Story of Les Mouches Fantastique” and “SCUM: a manifesto.”
To counter the defacements, festival organizers have been putting their own stickers on top that are rainbow-coloured and say “All for love. And love for all”.
But the organizers need help to get to defaced posters, and on Monday afternoon handed out the rainbow stickers in front of Mills Hardware at 95 King St. E.
“It’s been so hard to keep up, so if people see the hateful stickers, they can take these out to put over them,” said Calnan.
“Coal from Hades” is set in Montreal in 1938 when being queer was a criminal offence. Its two male characters share memories of the first queer magazine published in North America they helped create.
“SCUM: a manifesto” is a dark comedy about the feminist movement today.
Calnan found the defacements “deeply upsetting, especially with (theatre) companies coming from outside of the city” because “we want them to feel welcome.”
But she said community support has been amazing and she feels empowered by that.
“Once Matthew Green posted his video, there’s been a huge reaction. That’s encouraging,” she added.
Hamilton police met with Calnan Monday morning.
Hate crime investigator Sgt. Paul Corrigan told The Spectator police have investigated and found that there was no criminal offence involved.
“These are Biblical quotes. They are not advocating hate or genocide,” he explained. “They must be hateful and threatening in nature,” he said, adding they are protected under freedom of speech.
Corrigan added, however: “We are monitoring it, and if there is any further information, we will deal with it.”
Calnan said she understands the police position, adding she is also interested in free speech, although in this case, it’s “cloaked hatred.” She added the festival is replacing it with “a positive message that is inclusive and loving.”
Coun. Aidan Johnson, who also contacted police, admits hate speech and hate crime come under police jurisdiction.
But Hamilton’s first openly gay city councillor called the defacements awful.
“It saddens me very much to see this happening,” he said.
It’s been so hard to keep up, so if people see the hateful stickers, they can take these out to put over them. CLAIRE CALNAN FRINGE FESTIVAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Fringe Festival fans gathered in front of their office Monday afternoon to show their support and hand out 300 stickers to cover up defacing labels.