Hamilton police have charged multiple demonstrators for refusing to leave city hall after hours on Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators say officers responded to a call from city staff complaining about six individuals who refused to vacate the building for its regular closing time.
“The group stated they would not leave the premises until they were granted a public meeting with the Mayor,” police said in a release on Wednesday night.
“Eventually, the group grew to 19 individuals within the lobby. The group was warned they would be arrested and charged with trespassing if they did not leave.”
In the end, 18 people were eventually arrested, charged and released for trespassing, which is a $65 fine.
The action comes following the breakdown of a potential formal meeting between mayor Fred Eisenberger and a group that calls itself the “Defund the Police Hamilton Coalition” which had recently been occupying the forecourt of city hall since Nov. 23 by pitching tents and other structures.
The meeting never transpired due to a disagreement over who could attend the meeting, according to the city. Staff cited physical distancing issues and requested that only a select number of demonstrators participate in the meeting.
The coalition rejected the offer, telling city staff it was either “all of them or none of them.”
The incident adds to a number of other run-ins the city and coalition have had in recent days.
The group’s mandate is to get the city and Mayor Fred Eisenberger to immediately reduce the Hamilton police budget by 50 per cent, and use a 2020 budget surplus of $567,875 towards “free permanent housing” in Hamilton.
In response to the occupation, Mayor Eisenberger did volunteer to meet with organizers of the demonstration “formally” at city hall on Thursday. He said that invitation was rejected by the group due to the location.
“They indicated that they wanted it to be on the forecourt with a livestream and cameras on. And you know what, that’s not the kind of confrontation that I was going to be putting myself in the middle of,” Eisenberger told Global News in a recent interview.
Tensions between the city and the group escalated on Monday when city crews issued a trespass order to the group and began taking down tents in the forecourt.
The defund coalition responded by dropping off a coffin at the mayor’s house hours later, saying it was part of a vigil the group held to commemorate those who have lost their lives in the cold and to the “hands of police.”
“Due to Fred’s inaction, Eisenberger has blood on his hands. He did not attend that vigil. And so we have brought the vigil here to him,” demonstrator Rowa Mohamed said in a social media post.
On Wednesday night, the city responded to the protestor’s call on creating more affordable housing and helping the homeless by listing financial contributions made by all three levels of government since 2015.
The most recent commitments include $10.8 million in federal funding to house vulnerable and low-income residents.
Since 2017 the city has committed to spend $50 million over 10 years through Hamilton’s Poverty Reduction Strategy to support investments in housing and indigenous-led poverty reduction.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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