Fes­ti­val back­ers an­swer poster at­tack with rain­bows and love

‘Love for all’ stick­ers cover la­bels op­pos­ing fem­i­nist, LGBTQ themed shows

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

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

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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