Submitted by Camp Chaos Gays
For 3 days last weekend the chaos queers held an encampment at city hall that was more inclusive, productive, and community-centred space than the last 3 years of bureaucratic work going on inside.
We are some of the same queers Mayor Fred has called fake and tried to label as agitators; some of the same ones police have tried criminalizing. We are rebel queers; still resisting. Still loud. Always political. Still seeking and creating alternatives to the status quo. Who see what happened at Pride as a symptom of an ongoing issue in this city (and beyond) and a flashpoint; not a one-off event. Our identity and consistency makes it easy for them to try and label us as agitators, but not easy to shut us down.
It will never be easy to shut us down.
It was in that spirit we began the encampment.
Camp Chaos Gays was meant to offer alternatives to de-politicized queer spaces and wide reliance on city government, police or other power structures to help. We know they won’t help, and that we don’t need or want the life they try to prescribe for us to. Now others are seeing it too.
We aren’t the queers complaining that the police were too slow responding to violence at Pride, we’re the ones celebrating that for the first time ever we were able to drive the homophobes out of the park. We want a world without police, and that means being willing to handle situation like that on our own. We have a lot of learning to do, but it begins when people feel a sense of agency and don’t sit back waiting for one homophobic gang to handle another.
Throughout the weekend we were visited by many old and new friends alike. People who came to learn skills and find community-based and facilitated solutions. Who came to support and engage; to listen and be listened to. As well as those who approached in tears with messages of thanks; who felt both unsafe in and unseen by this city. At least one person reflected that Camp Chaos Gays was the first moment they’ve had to feel normal and get a good nights sleep in the month since Pride.
And how could anyone feel safe or seen by this city when it’s led by the likes of Mayor Fred? Mayor Fred who, in nothing short of disgusting ignorance, tries to equivocate gross power imbalances by comparing a dislike of city hall to racism and homophobia, and equates anti-police sentiment to Islamophobia. The man is literally clueless, and blindly fueling the surge of hate groups this city is seeing.
It’s ignorance that, at least in part, centrists/moderates/liberals are responsible for developing and catering to. Appealing to individuals in power for solution in crisis only ever serves to tighten their grip on power. We saw this happen when the 2SLGBQT+ Advisory Committee called for accountability and reparations but were instead replaced by paid consultants. We have seen this happen as moderates called for better policing and police responded by harassing and arresting queer rebels. We see it as centrists call for more dialogue and closed door conversations with Fred & the boys. Finally, we have seen it as the City responds to demands to end the yellow vest protests by attempting to criminalize all protest.
Even after dealing with homophobic bigots, black eyes, bloody noses, police harassment, and criminal charges our dear queer rebels are full of nothing but fiery determination.
We wanted to host a weekend where other worlds seemed possible, and we did the best we could.
As it sometimes happens, we had several items go missing from our camp over the weekend. Even though it was upsetting to lose wallets and tents, we opted not to call the police on street involved people, knowing it would only contribute to more harm. Instead of soliciting police for help, we searched ourselves in garbage pails, gutters, bushes and dumpsters. We had conversations with people in the area who’d been found with missing items and asked for accountability. We asked them to keep their eye out for our missing things with a “no questions, no police, cash reward” policy. Then we invited them to meals – regardless of outcome. We didn’t get most of the things back, but that’s okay.
On Saturday morning we prepared ourselves for the weekly Yellow Vest demo. Police intended to set up barricades to keep fascists separated from anti-fascists, yet with chaos queers camping right in the middle, there was no room for barricades and the bigots were forced across the street. Had we not been there, police would have set up barricades and made space for – and protected – fascists, giving them the opportunity to harass and demonize marginalized folks. Overall, it created an interesting parity with what happened at Pride, where the actions of queer rebels – NOT police – protected the community. Over and over, we learn that even when queer projects such as Pride succumb to cooperating with police, the “compromises” offered by the state are absurd compared to the ones we can find within our own collective strength. Of course, if the Pride Hamilton event had not been happening concurrently, police would likely have had a more repressive response towards people at the encampment, and facilitated bigots having an opportunity to spew their hate. All of this really just underlines that the community working in collaboration – without police – is far more effective than appealing to power for our safety any day, and that if you can’t be on the frontlines, standing behind the frontlines is still useful.
WE continue to keep us safe.
Saturday finished on a high note with a performance by Lee Reed that had over 60 people screaming “ACAB”, “fuck mayor fred”, and “free cedar” and – when some of that energy died off – a screening of ‘Pride’ projected onto the side of city hall.
On Sunday, children gathered around Karma Chameleon for Drag Queen Storyhour to hear stories about kids exploring gender and sexuality and family. Then we ended off the weekend the way we started, with a large town hall meeting on the steps of City Hall. We debriefed feelings, ate some cake, and headed home.
Since getting home, it’s fair to say we’ve been wrestling with a lot of emotions. It wasn’t easy camping along Main St for three days, choosing to open ourselves up to the fears and complaints and criticisms of other queers. Some of those complaints directed at us. Thank you for speaking your truth. We continue to reflect on the good and the bad of the weekend and, once it’s had a chance to settle, we will be releasing a compilation of everything that came up in the town halls with an eye on next steps.
We are so so very thankful to everyone who came out to help this weekend. From dropping off cold drinks and food to doing dishes to night time security shifts to rap shows to workshops, just even being a participant and hanging out for a couple hours. Folks came out in droves and almost every discussion and workshop was stacked with 15+ people all weekend. You made this a giant success.
The most important thing to come out of this weekend are the connections that we built. Let’s keep building on those. We hope that you feel inspired to act, to rebel, to think of queer as a commitment to a radically different world! Come by The Tower more often. Write things. Go postering. Start a group with your friends. Raise your voice. Disrupt. Put your body where your mouth is. Be brave, stay safe, and stay gay.
We’ll see you in the streets!