Last week, undercover officers laid 89 charges against 72 people, mostly men, at Marie Curtis Park. Dressed to be unrecognized as police, they attended the park and engaged with the men there. In a city coping with increased opiate drug trafficking, a rise in shootings, and a spate of deadly pedestrian collisions, what crime was so significant as to get this level of attention? The answer is largely men having consensual sex with men.
I believe it is important not to detract from the concerns west end residents have about this park. Parks should be for everyone and there is understandable frustration around parents keeping their children from encountering sex in a public space. However, there is a long memory in the LGBTQ2S community regarding inappropriate entrapment and disproportionate use of force by police against it.
In 1981 Toronto’s LGBTQ2S community faced one of its most painful moments with the Toronto Police-led bathhouse raids which ultimately resulted in 289 arrests of men. Their “crime” was that they were engaged in consensual sexual activity. In 2001, the Toronto Police raided Pussy Palace, a women’s bathhouse which again reminded us that this was a long-term struggle. During Pride Month this year, leadership within the Toronto Police Services could not quite bring themselves to acknowledge the devastating impact of those events and explicitly apologize for the lives ruined because of the bathhouse raids.