Hamilton police: Windows, vehicles damaged by group of people dressed in black
Codi Wilson, CTV News Toronto
Published Sunday, March 4, 2018 6:21AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, March 4, 2018 10:15PM EST
Several small business owners and residents in a popular Hamilton neighbourhood awoke to find their windows smashed and vehicles damaged after police said a mob of about 30 people went on a vandalism spree late Saturday night.
According to police, at around 10 p.m., two officers were called to the area of Durand Park on Park Street South after receiving a number of calls for mischief in the area.
When they arrived, they discovered a mob of people all dressed in black. Some of the members of the group were wearing masks and were carrying a sign that read, “We Are The Ungovernables,” police said.
“The officers approached the group and quickly had to retreat because they were being pelted with rocks,” Hamilton police Insp. Paul Hamilton told reporters on Sunday morning.
While some of the group dispersed, Hamilton said a “large nucleus” continued down Aberdeen Avenue and then on to Locke Street.
He said the mob set off smoke bombs and fireworks, and began to throw rocks at vehicles and homes in the neighbourhood.
“We had to amass a large contingent of police officers to deal with the group,” he said, adding that more than 30 officers from the city’s three patrol divisions, as well as the ACTION team, emergency response team, and canine unit, were called in to confront the suspects.
“The group continued down Locke Street, where they pelted some businesses with rocks and a number of vehicles,” Hamilton said.
“Once we were able to amass our group, we deployed but the group quickly dispersed. They fled and discarded a lot of their clothing.”
Approximately $100K in damage reported so far
Officers remained in the neighbourhood overnight to survey the damage and collect evidence.
Hamilton said so far, approximately 10 businesses and vehicle owners have reported damage but that number is expected to rise.
“I’m assuming that as people wake up that we may be getting more calls,” he said.
When asked about the total cost of the damage, Hamilton said a rough estimate provided to him was about $100,000.
No officers or civilians were injured during the incident, he added.
Police have not yet been able to identify the suspects responsible for the vandalism.
“At this point it is too early in the investigation to identify who the group was. We do know there was an anarchist book fair going on in Hamilton at Westdale (Secondary School) over the weekend so we are investigating to see if there is any potential links to any people attending that,” he said, noting that officers have not yet spoken to anyone who organized or took part in that event.
“This was obviously not a peaceful protest. This was not people exercising their right to free speech. These were criminals committing criminal acts and this will be investigated fully.”
Meanwhile, police are appealing to members of the public to come forward if they witnessed or recorded the events of Saturday night.
“We know there were a number of people out for dinner on Locke Street. It is a very well-travelled route and there is a number of people with cellphone cameras going. If you did witness something, if you do have video, we do ask for the public’s help. Please contact us,” Hamilton said.
Perpetrators ‘need to be brought to justice,’ Hamilton mayor says
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he is "disappointed" by what transpired in the city last night.
“It’s a scary thought that there are people claiming to be ungovernable that are prepared to actually put property and people in harm’s way,” he said. “They need to be brought to justice.”
He noted that police will continue to provide protection to the neighbourhood in the wake of the vandalism.
“I think there is a heightened police activity here already and that will continue as long as it is necessary,” the mayor said.
Eisenberger said members of the community were out in full force this morning supporting businesses in the neighbourhood.
“I can see the streets are full right now and we are encouraging people to continue to support these great restaurants and shops,” he said.
“Locke Street is one of our highlighted streets in terms of the success story that Hamilton is and certainly we shouldn’t allow this to dampen the great success that is happening right throughout our city.”
Ruben Vanderlwaak, owner of Donut Monster, a shop damaged during the vandalism, called the incident "scary" and "disappointing."
“I’ve never heard of this group. I don’t know what they are or who they are but whatever message they have it’s really not being conveyed by smashing windows,” he said.
He said despite the fact that the perpetrators smashed eight of the store’s windows, he hopes the shop will be up and running later today.
“We have bakers in all night getting ready for the next day and so we had to call everybody off last night,” he said.
“We are still going to make some product today and make some coffee and hopefully have some people come out and have a chance to talk about what’s going on.”
Resident Gina Dee said she is “beyond sad” to see this type of behaviour in Hamilton.
“It’s been in the past five years that you’ve seen this beautiful gentrification and a whole bunch of small businesses popping up and the entrepreneurial spirit and artists coming back to Hamilton. These are all small businesses,” she said.
“I’ve been a small business owner. I know how hard you have to work to do that and to think somebody has closed you for the day. That’s money you can’t recover.”
Horwath urges community to support shops on Locke Street
Andrea Horwath, the leader of the Ontario NDP and MPP for Hamilton Centre, lives a few blocks from where the vandalism occurred on Saturday night and said some of her neighbours had their homes and vehicles damaged.
“People feel like the area has been violated,” she said. “Folks are very upset.”
The politician called on the community to support businesses on Locke Street and proposed making March 10 #LoveLockeDay.
“We are going to ask people just to come back to the community and just show the businesses here and the rest of the community that there is more of us than there are of them,” she said.
“We are a resilient community and we love our Locke Street so folks are going to be here.”