We’re settling down into our first night at Camp Chaos Gays on the doorsteps of City Hall. It’s been a frantic day and we never really got to introduce ourselves. Hello Hamilton! We are the Chaos Gays – a smattering of queers, trans people, fags, fairies and divas enraged by what’s happening in this city. People who don’t have any aspirations of being Mayor Eisenberger’s tame LGB. . .T. . .whatever (nice try merulla) gays willing to tolerate his endless buffoonery in exchange for a seat at his table. We identify much more closely with his chaotic, fake-gay strawman, the people who will take it upon ourselves to defend Pride when it’s under attack, the folks who will play flutes on the Mayor’s doorstep when he’s being a twit, the ones who aren’t interested in begging for scraps of his recognition, but prefer instead to organize our own townhall discussions and figure out our own solutions.
And now we have a camp. Camp Chaos Gays! Everyone’s invited. Except the Cops. Cops are absolutely not welcome here. And to the cops lurking on the margins: We fucking see you.
It’s been a long and interesting day, starting with our pancake breakfast and townhall conversation timed to coincide with the City Council meeting inside. We wanted these two conversations to overlap to emphasize how disconnected we feel from what happens in that building. Those politicians will never represent us, will never protect us, and will never be part of our solutions. We warned in the immediate aftermath of Pride that channelling any of our rage and hurt into asking the Police and the Mayor for a response would only backfire. And indeed, within weeks they had one of us in jail, five more charged, and a proposed list of banned protest activities that had nothing to do with fighting hate groups and everything to do with silencing us.
Because turning to those in power to solve our problems only makes room for them to tighten their grip on power. Chaos Gays don’t want that. We want to be free from unconsensual power structures altogether.
Our first townhall meeting was a success! Thirty people circled together to talk about what’s been happening in this city over the past month, how queers can build solidarity at the intersections of our communities, and the importance of building relationships with other people who find themselves in struggle with the police. Many expressed a desire to have more mutual aid in our lives; to find ways to help each other survive & resist that don’t involve money. While the pressures of capitalism continue to make food & shelter harder to access in Hamilton, we need to be building alternative systems to support one another. Many people expressed sadness and anger at the surge of racist and homophobic organizing in this city, and a need for better deescalation skills and overall strategies when confronting them.
We were soon joined by the Hamilton & District Labour Council, who organized a brilliant “Protest the Protest Rules Protest” at City Hall. In response to the City’s proposed restrictions on Hate related activities, which effectually bans all forms of public protest, rally, vigil and celebration from city property, the HDLC came to city hall to visibly break every one of the proposed rules. They lit candles, distributed flyers, amplified sounds, rode scooters, chalked the pavement, gave out water, and sold popcorn right within eyeshot of city council chambers. We happily joined in their efforts, and hope that people continue to resist whatever restrictions get put into place. Squashing reactionary groups isn’t achieved by restrictive laws, it’s achieved by empowered communities standing up to oppressive forces.
The afternoon was pretty relaxed as we continued to decorate the space, welcome visitors, and restock our free-zine table which had been nearly cleared in the morning. People did their own dishes, made new friends, and continued to cover the entire block in sidewalk chalk. Two workshops ran in the evening. The first was called “Resisting: A Legal Rights Workshop”, and offered information and useful anecdotes for people interested in activism. The police will always stand between us that world we want to live in, and so we shouldn’t be surprised if we encounter them on our paths. We need to use our wits, our “rights”, and whatever other tools we can to escape their grasp. The second workshop was called “Be Gay Do Crime: Building a Security Culture”. We talked about developing habits in our communities that evade surveillance and that empower us to take bigger risks together.
By nightfall we had a full karaoke setup and were singing Whitney Houston and Natalie Imbruglia to the downtown core with reckless abandon. Over 50 people joined us for the party, and 10 pizzas arrived just in time to stave off our midnight cravings. We even got a phone call from Cedar who is still in jail for the speech they gave at City Hall. They were delighted to hear about the camp, about the levels of support, and about how awkwardly the journalists have been handling their gender. “If we make freedom our gender identity, they’ll never be able to capture us,” Cedar laughed. We at Camp Chaos Gays couldn’t agree more.
We hope to see many of you tomorrow. It’s going to be a wild day with yet another Yellow Vest rally planned, overlapped by Pride Hamilton’s “Hamilton For Who” demo, currently over 1500 people strong on Facebook. We also have another full schedule at the camp tomorrow, featuring a beading workshop for Indigenous people, a history of feminist & queer anti-fascist organizing, and a performance by Hamilton’s own microphone warrior Lee Reed. Check out any of our social media accounts (#afterpridewrath) for the saturday schedule & our list of needed supplies. We hope to see you tomorrow to share in our love, our dreams and our wrath. Because if you didn’t know already: after pride comes wrath.
-Camp Chaos Gays