Hamilton Queer Community Defence Reportback

On November 24, people in Hamilton showed up to support a drag storytime event after word spread online that haters would be coming to protest it. Some of the apparent organizers of the event emerged from the ‘freedom convoy’ movement but lately seem to have been focusing on queer/trans-related issues, especially those concerning

At the Hamilton event there were probably about 30 protesters, a mix of seniors, highly wingnutty women and big dudes who looked like they came to fight. There were at least double the number of supporters, who did a solid job standing up to the haters and holding a space outside the library filled with music, chants and pride flags. To me the day felt a lot like most other anti-fascist demos in this region, with people yelling at each other with a line of cops in the middle; maneuvering to control the space; and some moments of escalated tension that threatened to break into a physical fight.

I’m curious about how this ‘moment’ fits into the trajectory of far-right and antifascist organizing in this region from the last few years, and what to make of it as seemingly the first time post-freedom convoy that far-right gatherings are being so actively countered. The far-right always has a flavour of the day, whether it’s hating on Muslims, protesting covid lockdowns or, currently, taking aim at queer and trans people, but especially kids. I’m also curious about how the focus on targetting kids events, schools, etc may factor into the kind of responses people choose.

Whatever the reason that this particular event spurred such a strong turnout in counter-protesters, it’s cool to see Hamilton maintain such a strong practice of queer self-defence, that’s been tested many times over the past few years. Having a queer community that prioritizes showing up for each other when part of the community is under attack is a really solid thing.

It seems like these far-right demos are ramping up (a lot of the same crowd was in Renfrew, ON for an anti-trans protest at a high school the very next day) so maybe it’s worth thinking about what an antifascist response to these assholes looks like. I don’t have any clear proposals, just a few thoughts. Following fascists from demo to demo, having your timing and priorities set by the times they decide to gather is pretty uninspiring. Trying turn the tables by getting intel, staying ahead of them and going on the offensive is more inspiring but can also be a time suck of a project that you didn’t really choose…antifascist organizing really can feel like a bit of a trap. I think it’s worth countering haters, and I think it’s worth being thoughtful about how to do it without getting totally swept up in countering the far-right as the #1/only organizing priority.

I think if there’s inspiration and learning to be found in this kind of organizing, it’s from showing up for stuff with your own plans, ideally with your crew, figuring out how your want to engage and what skills you bring to a situation. It means taking responsibility for yourselves and not showing up with the #1 priority of ‘not escalating’. Ideally stuff like this helps us find strength as a community, practice being brave together, and helps us hone skills that we can use in all kinds of situations including ones where we’re setting the terms of engagement.

And remember there’s lots of ways to engage with events like this…I’ve heard for instance that least some haters’ lives were made more miserable that day by returning to a car with slashed tires.