On Sunday, October 2nd, paramedics were called to a downtown Canadian Tire to treat an employee who suffered an epileptic seizure. Soon after the arrival of paramedics, the Hamilton Police were dispatched in response to a call from paramedics claiming that the 27-year-old Black man being treated had become “combative”. Several Hamilton Police officers arrived on scene, subsequently tackling and tasering him.
Medical distress should never be met with force, and we condemn these blatant acts of violence against a member of our community who required urgent medical attention.
We are appalled by the HPS and paramedics’ response to the situation, and their ableist vilification of post-seizure distress. We view this incident with the context and understanding that Hamilton has a large density of disabled residents, and with the knowledge that people who live with the intersections of Blackness and disability are twice as likely to experience police violence and be viewed as threatening when they are in need of support.
The police’s dismissal and outward violence is a symptom of a larger, recurring problem that occurs often to Black, Indigenous and disabled community members in Hamilton. This is not the first time that community members have gathered to condemn Hamilton Police for their actions and support affected individuals.
We believe that this is another example of the dire need in our community to invest in community based mental health and crisis support, rather than relying on policing.
Despite the clear display of violence by the authorities, we have multiple questions regarding how the situation was handled;
Why were police called as a response to a medical emergency?
Upon hearing that this individual was in medical distress, why was a weapon pulled?
How many other times has Hamilton Police used force against people who are in medical distress?
What long term injuries does and will this person face due to the way this situation was handled by police?
Rather than requesting police, What if paramedics had an alternative option of requesting a community based mental health and crisis support service?
Why was the victim, under medical distress, charged criminally?
Joint statement from Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, Afro Canadian Caribbean Association of Hamilton, and Disability Justice Network of Ontario.