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Charges withdrawn against activists involved in Hamilton encampment demonstrations

Six people involved in November demonstrations advocating for Hamilton’s homeless population have had charges connected to obstructing police dropped during a short court hearing on Tuesday.

The supporters, which included members of the Hamilton Encampment Support Network (HESN), agreed to a peace bond requiring those involved to be on good behavior until Nov. 24.

Hamilton MP Matthew Green along with several local Black and anti-racism organizations called on police to drop the charges during a campaign in early December related to encampment removals made by the city in November.

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Residents displaced after fire rips through homeless encampment at Hamilton park

The arrests came as groups advocating on behalf of encampment residents asked city staff to refrain from removing what was left of belongings following a fire at J.C. Beemer Park.

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Arrests were made amid encounters between advocates and officers over several days at the park and during the decay of a demonstration at the central police station on King William Street.

Terms of the bond issued by a judge on Tuesday include avoiding areas restricted by police, refraining from any police-involved operations related to the homeless, and participation in only lawful public demonstrations.

Additionally, the backers must depart from any demonstrations deemed unlawful by authorities and cannot organize or aid unlawful acts or protests.

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MP, Black leaders say charges tied to Hamilton encampment demonstrations should be dropped

A number of advocacy organizations weighed in on the court decision Tuesday afternoon with the Hamilton Encampment Support Network characterizing the ordeal in a social media post as an “incredibly difficult process” mentally and physically.

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“While we feel that dropping the charges was the best outcome … it is disturbing to know that no plans of action or significant policy change have been taken by the City of Hamilton to stop encampment evictions.”

Hamilton’s Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) said it would continue to ask the city’s Police Services Board for an independent review.

On Monday, HCCI frontman Kojo Damptey told Global News the request was to get answers for “some disturbing things” that happened at the police headquarters demonstration on Nov. 26.

“From our point of view, this inquiry should happen regardless of the decision that takes place on Tuesday,” Damptey said.

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“Black leaders in this community have also asked for that inquiry.”

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Police arrests tied to Hamilton encampment teardowns spark demonstration at central station

Co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario Sarah Jama, whose arrest was the focus of the central station demonstration, posted “History will always absolve us,” following the court decision.

“These evictions are still occurring. Check on your neighbours, be kind, and don’t let those in power scare you out of doing the right thing when it counts the most,” Jama went on to say.

In November, a superior court judge ruled against a group of homeless residents seeking a permanent injunction to stop the City of Hamilton from potentially dismantling dozens of small encampments in parks.

In the 76-page decision, Justice Andrew J. Goodman acknowledged that homelessness was a “tragedy in Canada” but said evidence brought forth by counsel at the hearing demonstrated the city “continues to undertake reasonable steps in order to make available safe shelter space and accommodation.”

Global News has reached out to the City of Hamilton and Hamilton police for comment on the decision to withdraw charges. As of Tuesday afternoon, neither had responded with statements.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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