Around two dozen members of the LGBT community gathered in Marie Curtis Park in Etobicoke this Saturday to protest what they believe was a homophobic undercover operation conducted by the Toronto police.
During the Walk the Beat event on Nov 19, 2016, protesters spoke and debated with local residents and police officers about Project Marie, a six-week-long police operation that saw 75 men and two women charged with bylaw breaches and one man charged with a criminal offence.
Walk the Beat was put on by Toronto police in the hopes of getting community members to come and discuss the issues in the park as well help with park clean-up. Protesters also attended the event to stand in support of the men charged in Project Marie while condemning the sting, especially in light of the Toronto police’s apology for the 1981 bathhouse raids only five months ago.
“We believe this is a continuation and a revival of old homophobic targeted policing measures,” says Lisa Amin, a human rights lawyer who was at the protest. “We are saying that community policing can be done better.”
Amin says that she was concerned about the well-being of the people who were charged.
“We know from experience that a lot of the people most likely to be arrested in these scenarios are marginalized men,” she says.
“That this sting is happening in Etobicoke and not the downtown core speaks volumes,” says Mikiki, another one of the protesters. “This is a community with lots of folks from racialized communities, a lot of folks that are new to Canada that might not have access to the larger LGBT community.”