Between Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 the Windsor-Essex Trans Support Centre was the target of three fascist hate crimes. Starting with the drawing of swastikas, and racist and homophobic slurs, the attacks escalated to the throwing of a rusty brake motor through the centre’s window. Hate crimes have been on the rise across Ontario. Windsor, one of the most racially diverse cities in Canada, is no exception to this trend. Only a few months ago outrage erupted when a video was leaked of a local fraternity member threatening a black student with a noose. These crimes are the work of a far right that feels more emboldened than ever under the Conservative provincial government. Far from combatting this reactionary hatred, Premier Ford has stood with white supremacists like Faith Goldy and the Proud Boys, and passed laws enshrining the rights of transphobes and neo-Nazis to speak on campuses.
Fightback spoke with Alex Reid, executive director of W.E. Trans Support about the crimes. “We’ve had a huge influx of people seeking mental health support,” explained Reid, “They are feeling that the Windsor community is not a place where they are welcome.”
So far, police have committed to charging the perpetrators with a hate crime, and more nightly drive-by’s and police surveillance of the premises. W.E. Trans support regards this as a positive step. But without any leads or evidence it is unlikely the perpetrators will be caught. In the meantime, transgender community members are in need of mental health support, which lacks funding. More of Windsor’s tax revenue is spent on the Windsor Police services, which has proven itself unequipped at best in dealing with mental health support, than on any other service. Only a few years ago in 2018 two Windsor police shot a man experiencing a mental health crisis seven times, killing him. The officers were not charged.
To many members of the trans community, more policing is not the answer. When asked about the level of trust the Windsor trans community has in police, Reid explained, “The vast majority of trans folks in Windsor have experienced some sort of harassment or discrimination from policing bodies… A vast majority of my community does not trust the police.” And further, “People in the queer and trans community are not asking to defund the police for fun.”
The Windsor community has shown tremendous solidarity with W.E. Trans Support. The centre has received an unprecedented amount of much needed financial support from individuals and an array of local organizations. Within minutes of the attack community members rushed to board up the broken windows. Thousands of locals publicly expressed support for the Windsor trans community. People who might not have known that W.E. Trans Support even exists are now able to access their services. This kind of support further proves that fascist ideas have no mass appeal. “The individuals perpetrating this towards us are not just targeting the trans community. Their hate towards our centre was homphobic, transphobic and racist. The swastikas speak for themselves… Nazi propaganda targets all minorities,” said Reid. One quarter of Windsorites identify as part of a minority group, and an injury to one is an injury to all.
The community support also points towards the best way of dealing with fascists. Working class people, united in solidarity, are capable of protecting each other and of shutting fascists down. On the other hand, the state and the police have proven time and again that they will protect the rights of neo-Nazis to demonstrate, rub shoulders with them without a word of condemnation, and actively oppress the same marginalized groups targeted by fascists. The potential for solidarity in Windsor could be realized to an even greater extent if the trade unions took a lead in organizing actions demonstrating support for and defence of W.E. Trans Support. If necessary, union-led groups should be organized to provide security for W.E. Trans Support. As Reid put it, “the best way to combat these attacks is through solidarity”.
W.E. Trans Support has a hate crime support fund to provide urgent services to the trans community: https://www.gofundme.com/f/hate-crime-support-fund