Hamilton police have arrested a man after a video appeared to show him hurling transphobic and racist insults toward passengers on an HSR bus.
Police issued a news release on Tuesday appealing for witnesses and victims related to the three-minute video after CBC Hamilton asked the police service about it a day earlier.
It also said the incident was reported via the service’s online reporting tool by a third party in another province.
On Wednesday afternoon, the police service said officers arrested 41-year-old Christopher Pretula, charging him with assault and utter threat.
The police service is also applying to lay a hate crime charge.
“We recognize the impact hate has in our community…. We continue to encourage people to come forward to report in order for police to investigate and charge accordingly,” police spokesperson Jackie Penman told CBC Hamilton.
“Reporting is an important step in addressing and rooting out hate in Hamilton.”
‘This breaks my heart’
The video, posted online Monday, appears to have been filmed from inside an HSR bus as it approached the Lawrence Road entrance of Gage Park.
The person recording the video appears to be Pretula.
He regularly livestreams on YouTube and other social media platforms. In a video on Monday, he said he’s turning 42 this week. His channel has numerous videos of him getting in heated confrontations with other people around the city.
The transphobic tirade that’s gone viral is only a snippet of a now-deleted livestream that broadcast on Monday.
On the same day <a href=”https://twitter.com/StatCan_eng?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@StatCan_eng</a> reports 60% increase in hate crimes against 2SLGBTQI+, there is a livestreamed hate attack in <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/hamont?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#hamont</a> in my neighborhood on <a href=”https://twitter.com/hsr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@hsr</a> .<br><br>This stuff breaks my heart. Council and mayoral candidates, what are you going to do about the hate in our city?
“This stuff breaks my heart,” Jyssika Russell, a member of the LGBTQ community in Hamilton, said on Twitter after the video was shared online for a time Tuesday.
Russell works with The Enchanté Network, a network of 2SLGBTQI+ organizations in Canada, and told CBC Hamilton the network is “acutely aware of the rising tide of hate across Canada, and Hamilton has unfortunately been a harbinger that elected officials at all levels should be following and responding to.”
“Thriving, funded, and supported 2SLGBTQI+ communities and organizations are our best response to homophobic and transphobic hate,” she said.
Speqtrum, a local youth-focused LGBTQ group, said the queer community is strong but “experiencing too much hate.”
“We want to make sure that Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ youth are getting the support they need, but it’s difficult to do this without allies from every community being vocal about why this isn’t OK,” they said in an email to CBC.
CBC Hamilton has viewed the video but is not publishing it to protect the others in the video — who have not been identified and did not appear to consent to the recording — from further harm.
Streamer insults and threatens riders
In the video, Pretula is sitting on an HSR bus headed toward Gage Park’s Festival of Friends. He had also livestreamed at the festival for the past few days.
“I don’t know what this goofball, weird, transformer looking fool is laughing at,” Pretula says, pointing toward a passenger seated in front of him.
“Does anyone love you?” responds the rider, seemingly in defence.
Pretula could be heard mocking the people he is filming, asks the rider what their pronouns are and insults the rider some more.
“You’re deflecting because nobody gives a s–t about you,” the rider responds to Pretula in the video.
Pretula tells the rider to “get off the bus and say that to me” before threatening to hit the rider and making more transphobic comments.
“If you’re a man, I’ll smack you out,” he says in the video.
Pretula then starts to insult another rider for the next minute or so of the video.
He then looks at a third rider, who is a person of colour, and makes a racist comment, suggesting the rider “go back to Pakistan.”
As Pretula begins to exit the bus, he accuses one of the first two riders of kicking him.
“Do it again, motherf—-r,” he says as he holds a clenched fist to the face of one of the riders.
“I’ll kick your f—ing head off,” he says while exiting the bus and starts walking into Gage Park, swearing some more.
HSR reviewing incident
Sylvia Peña, a spokesperson for the city’s transit department, said the city is taking the incident “very seriously” and is co-operating with police.
“In tandem with the police investigation, HSR is also conducting a review of what occurred,” she told CBC Hamilton.
“Due to the ongoing police investigation, I don’t have additional information at this time.”
She said if a concerning incident arises, HSR drivers are generally required to contact a supervisor and request police assistance if needed. She also said video of an incident would be flagged.
Streamer discusses rant in separate video
In a separate livestream not long after the incident, Chris said he ended the stream, made the video private and will likely delete it, calling it an “insurance policy on myself.”
“If I keep the stream going when I’m like that, you guys will just keep amping me up,” he said to his small group of viewers.
Pretula said it’s a “rare” encounter and “not my proudest moment” but said he only made the video private to avoid being flagged by YouTube, adding he had no concerns about breaking the law.
“I did go a little bit hard. I noticed after that stream, I lost two [subscribers] … it is what it is, for all my local Hamiltonians, if you can’t handle s–t like that, then get off this channel,” he said.
“I’m sorry if that content bothers you but if it’s any consolation, it bothers me too. I don’t like being like that … I don’t know why I got so triggered,” he said.
He didn’t answer emails from CBC Hamilton and didn’t acknowledge comments from CBC Hamilton to reply to the media requests in one of his live chats Monday evening.
Mayor calls video ‘reprehensible’
The video comes as Hamilton has seen a record number of hate crimes.
In 2021, police reported 108 hate incidents (87 of which weren’t considered crimes), a 35 per cent increase from 2020, but the figure is around average when compared to past years.
If anyone witnessed this reprehensible incident or knows who this person is, please call Hamilton Hate Crime Investigator Sergeant Rebecca Moran at 905-546-5511.<br><br>To report anonymously contact Crime Stoppers at:<br>1-800-222-8477 or <a href=”https://t.co/beQYFEmogx”>https://t.co/beQYFEmogx</a>.<br>1/2 <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#HamOnt</a> <a href=”https://t.co/BOevcTOANp”>https://t.co/BOevcTOANp</a>
Newly released Statistics Canada data also shows the country saw continued increases in the rates of various criminally harassing and threatening behaviours. There were 2,073 reported hate crimes in 2017 and last year saw 3,360 nationally.
The number of reported hate crimes related to sexual orientation in Canada has more than doubled between 2017 and 2021 according to the stats, jumping from 204 to 423 respectively.
Hamilton police say they’re urging any additional victims or witnesses to contact Hamilton Police Hate Crime Investigator Sergeant Rebecca Moran at 905-546-5511 or Crime Stoppers.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger also encouraged people to come forward, calling the incident “reprehensible.”