On August 26, the night before Hamilton’s official Pride event, a bunch of rowdy queers marched through the city’s North End in an autonomous, abolitionist march.
The event started at Jackie Washington park with a land acknowledgement and speeches. The land acknowledgment paid particular attention to the way Indigenous people have always resisted colonization and made the link to forms of displacement happening in the city in the present, notably around encampments.
We left the park and headed towards the prison, taking the streets with flares and music. At the prison, fireworks were set off and met with loud banging from the folks on the inside. A speaker from the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project told the story of the first person ever executed at the Barton Jail — he had murdered his landlord while on rent strike. The speaker went on to describe how prison impacts queer people and reproduces patriarchy:
“The odds are good that there are people in solitary confinement behind these walls right now for no other reason than that they are queer. This is structural homophobia — exposing queers to the worst conditions in the prison system. And that trauma is then exported back into our communities.”
Making a ton of noise (“Bottoms! Tops! We all hate cops!”), we took Barton Street for a block and then turned back north to reach the abandoned city housing complex at James and Strachan and the tent city that has sprung up around its perimeter, where a person who lives in an encampment briefly addressed the crowd.
We then went down the hill to Bay Front Park, where the mainstream Pride event would happen. That event — with its fenced perimeter, its security guards, its bag searches, and its cops — really seems like a caricature of what happens if you don’t believe that queers have the ability to keep each other safe. Yes, past Pride celebrations in Hamilton have been shitshows, but they have been shitshows where queers fought and won.
The march turned into a party under a stand of trees decorated with lights and streamers and where a DJ was just starting a set.
This is the second year there has been an autonomous Pride demo like this. Is it the start of a tradition? I guess we will see next year…