City or­der to re­move an­ar­chist sym­bol was ‘im­proper’

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local - NATALIE PADDON npad­don@thes­pec.com 905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec

City of Hamil­ton is back­track­ing on its or­dered re­moval of a cir­cle-A sym­bol from a lo­cal an­ar­chist meet­ing space.

Af­ter forc­ing The Tower to re­move the sym­bol from its build­ing on Can­non Street East in March be­cause they re­port­edly con­sid­ered it “hate ma­te­rial,” the city said Thurs­day the bylaw or­der to have the “graf­fiti” re­moved was “im­proper.”

In a re­sponse that took more than a day to pro­duce, the city said the bylaw or­der was “im­proper in terms of ex­ceed­ing the scope of its bylaw, which is in­tended pri­mar­ily to ad­dress prop­erty dam­age and main­te­nance, and not con­tent of sig­nage.”

The bylaw or­der came just over a week af­ter an anti-gen­tri­fi­ca­tion van­dal­ism spree on Locke Street South, which po­lice have said was con­nected to an An­ar­chist Book Fair, as well as The Tower. A masked mob of about 30 peo­ple in black cloth­ing marched up the street, throw­ing rocks at cars and busi­nesses, break­ing win­dows, and light­ing fire­works, ul­ti­mately caus­ing about $100,000 in dam­age.

Mayor Fred Eisen­berger, who orig­i­nally backed the city staff de­ci­sion to clas­sify the an­ar­chist cir­cle-A a hate sym­bol, also re­neged on that po­si­tion Thurs­day. He said in a state­ment that his ear­lier com­ments were based on the be­lief that city by­laws had been ap­pro­pri­ately ap­plied.

“Stem­ming from the sense­less acts of vi­o­lence and van­dal­ism in our City, my com­ments were a re­ac­tion that hate speech, and the acts of vi­o­lence, have no place in the City of Hamil­ton,” the state­ment reads. “With ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion, it is clear the an­ar­chy sym­bols is not a hate sym­bol and efforts are be­ing un­der­taken to im­me­di­ately up­The date staff train­ing.”

The CBC re­ported ear­lier this week that a city spokesper­son said the City of Hamil­ton and Hamil­ton po­lice con­sider the an­ar­chist sym­bol to be “hate ma­te­rial” and that’s why they or­dered its re­moval. But Hamil­ton po­lice have said they don’t con­sider the cir­cle-A to be a “hate crime sym­bol.”

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment from the city, they will be up­dat­ing staff train­ing for mu­nic­i­pal law en­force­ment of­fi­cers. The city said it will com­mu­ni­cate with Hamil­ton po­lice as part of that up­date “with a fo­cus on seek­ing po­lice as­sis­tance or review over con­cern with mat­ters po­ten­tially re­lated to crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.” The state­ment said the mu­nic­i­pal law en­force­ment of­fi­cer was act­ing “in ac­cor­dance with their train­ing” when they is­sued the or­der to re­move the sym­bol from a sign.

The city did not an­swer ad­di­tional ques­tions be­fore dead­line Thurs­day, in­clud­ing what train­ing the of­fi­cer acted in ac­cor­dance with, where the direc­tion to re­move the graf­fiti came from and what up­dates will be made to train­ing.

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