Not too long ago Hamilton found its way into the national news for briefly deciding the anarchy symbol was a form of hate speech and demanding that The Tower, a local anarchist organization, remove the symbol from their storefront. Mayor Fred Eisenberger backed the staff decision and was quoted in The Spectator as saying “Certainly the anarchists that have locally presented themselves have done things that would be considered to be inappropriate, so if you tie the two of them together, I would say that’s a symbol of destruction and mayhem and causing a crisis to a particular area. Is that hateful? I think it is.”
More recently we learned that Hamilton city council is looking at changing its rules so anyone who “speaks disrespectfully” of its decisions can be removed from council meetings. But the definition of what “disrespectful” entails is not explained.
Shortly after the anarchy symbol decision made the national news backlash mounted. It became clear that city staff had overstepped in their classification of the letter A in a circle as a form of hate speech. Mayor Eisenberger wisely backed away from his initial statement. Backlash is already growing about the idea of people being barred from council for being disrespectful. Local journalist Joey Coleman brought up the case of Fred Bracken, a well-known agitator in Fort Erie whose ban from his town hall was found unconstitutional by the Appeal Court. It’s very likely Hamilton would find itself in a similar spot should they take the same approach.