The Circus That Was The Whitehead / Green Pressers

By Joey Coleman // @JoeyColeman
Published: Feb 12 2017 (4 months ago) // Last Updated: Feb 12 2017 (4 months ago)

City Hall held its official start of Black History Month on Thursday, but you probably didn't know that because it was completely overshadowed by Councillor Terry Whitehead's statement advertised as a press conference at noon.

Before the Conference

11:45am, public foyer to Council Chamber, second floor, Hamilton City Hall

The Black History Month kick-off is happening inside Council Chambers, a reception is set up outside of the Chamber. Meanwhile, in a quarter of the foyer, a crowd of media, city staff, and anti-LRT campaigners have gathered for Whitehead's 12-noon press conference.

Most of the staff present are there to see how this is going to go sideways, the City Manager's Office has multiple people ready to record audio, the Mayor's Office is out to watch, someone asks if all the security cameras are working and recording, and anti-LRT folks are trying to hand out small flags to wave in support of Whitehead.

Meanwhile, the leadership of Hamilton's Black community can only watch as their efforts are overshadowed, and wonder how this was allowed to happen.

I feel bad, I'm covering what I fully expect to be little more than Whitehead seeding confusion, when I wanted to highlight the great work of the Black History Month committee. The only redeeming factor is that Whitehead will have to take questions at the end of his press conference.

There are only five anti-LRT campaigners that I counted, but the crowd of staff and onlookers have grown such that it's possible there are more not holding flags.

Councilor Green is standing off to the side, Councillor Conley walked by, shook his head, and continued with his day.

There's anticipation in the air.

It seems the only thing missing is a concession agent shouting "popcorn, peanuts, get your popcorn and peanuts"!

People are expecting a typical City Council circus.

Noon Arrives

Noon arrives, the anticipation grows. I give other media the heads up that I'll ask a tough question as the third if there's nothing new in Whitehead's announcement.

I quip about the news conference starting late, noting Council's issues with quorum.

Finally, Whitehead comes out. His staff hand out a written copy of his statement. Whitehead decides this is no longer a press conference, instead, he'll read his statement, and then arrange one-on-one interviews.

It's classic media manipulation, and actually smart for Whitehead. He has a history of contradicting himself, so he doesn't want full video of a question and answer on the Internet.

Whitehead cowardly puts his junior administrative assistance in the position of announcing this is no longer a press conference, that it will be a statement and no questions will be taken at the podium.

I asked Whitehead why he wasn't answering questions, he didn't answer, his assistant was forced to answer. I repeated the question to Whitehead, he stated he wasn't surprised I was making it an issue, and that it wouldn't be taking questions from the podium.

I told him in the age of media manipulation, I wasn't going to record a statement. I retracted my tripod, and moved to the back of the crowd. I started to pack up my gear as the spectacle began.

Full Video of this is on my Facebook page.

As I stood at the back near the staircase, I observed the statement. While I wasn't filming Whitehead, I was aware of the potential for something newsworthy to happen. I heard the raised voice of Green as he took the podium and declared he was having his own press conference, and the counter-argument of Whitehead in response. I grabbed my camera, and filmed in handheld mode.

Full video of this on my Facebook page.

What followed was Green and Whitehead arguing over who could use the podium, and the meaning of the City of Hamilton logo on the front of the podium. (The podium is new and facilities staff placed it, this is the first time it was publicly used)

Green was agitated before the press conference by Whitehead's overshadowing of Black History Month. Green is Hamilton's first Black City Councillor.

Green took control of the podium and started his own unannounced press conference. Then an protester - who is well know for his outlandish statements - hijacked Green.

You know the rest of the story.

The crowd quickly dispersed when the spectacle was over, online people started viewing the video, and nobody got to look good in the end. Clowncillors - as many online took to calling them - and City Hall staff were regretting the spectacle.

In a sideroom at City Hall, MPP Michael Coteau, the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism sat.

What did he think of the spectacle? Yet again, our Clowncil provided a circus act during a Ministerial visit.

The summary of all of this? It was just another day at Hamilton City Hall.

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