Gays Rebuff Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair’s Attempt to Enjoy an Afternoon Cocktail With the Queers

When your police minions are accused, under your watch, of segregating the gays at G20 protests “for their own safety”, you should probably expect they won’t be your biggest fans. Which explains the uproar for Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, whose attempt to attend a Pride Week party — organized by the cops, and not the local queers — turned into a stand-off.

Yesterday’s afternoon cocktail party turned into a chance for The Gays to demand Blair’s resignation and cause a general stink.

A 4:30pm cocktail appearance by Toronto police chief Bill Blair quickly became a heated standoff June 29. Organizers kept gay and trans people out of the 519 Community Centre auditorium for over two hours — and periodically ejected people from inside. For the first hour, those who were forbidden from entry stayed outside. Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands came out to speak to the crowds, which spilled onto the street. She reminded protesters that the event was organized by Toronto Police — not Pride Toronto — and said that they were dealing with capacity issues. She was heckled by people on the street. Later, organizers said that Pride Toronto was complicit in the “pinkwashing” of Toronto Police. 519 executive director Maura Lawless also spoke briefly, saying that she hoped to host a discussion between queers and cops soon. One protester shouted, “But we’re here now!”

Bill Blair arrived in a dark SUV around 5:30 to chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Police officers forcibly parted the crowd to make way for Blair to enter through the front door, where the protesters were. Two other doors stood empty and unlocked. After Blair went in, queers occupied the lobby. They chanted and shouted to disrupt the ceremony happening on the second floor.

And once safely inside, Blair continued stonewalling the very community he was there to support, or something.

He worked the room briefly as Rae and Elliott made speeches. As Blair was introduced and took position at the mic, one person in the crowd surged forward to challenge him about the conduct of Toronto Police over the past weekend. “My friends were arrested for no reason,” she called. Blair stood silently at the podium as she was gently escorted from the room by 519 staffers. It was a courageous, gut-wrenching moment.

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  • Joseph brennan

    A cocktail party??? Really? Wow I guess Toronto police really do know ther LGBT community :-/

  • Mike

    This was truly shameful behavior on the part of the LGBT community. The police had an awful job to do during the G20 summit. It wasn’t Bill Blair’s idea to hold the summit in Toronto.
    I ask anyone to explain what it is that they would do when faced by the threat of another round of violent demonstrators who use lawful protestors as sheilds. One might argue that the voilence was aimed at corporations and big banks – but there were a lot of SMALL businesses that were impacted. Sure insurance might cover damages – but there will always be a deductable and insurance costs will surely rise as a result. And let’s not forget the employees of those businesses and the people inside the businesses when their windows were smashed. Lastly – let’s not forget that it will be OUR city taxes that will pay for all of this in the end. So when you get your notifcation that your taxes are going up to pay for the torched cop cars and the necessary cleanup (because the Fed Govt have already said it’s the city’s and the businesses’ responsibility to pay for damages) just think of our wondeful friends in black for our financial troubles.

    Shame on you gays and dykes!

  • Michael

    @Mike: “The police had an awful job to do during the G20 summit.”

    Yes, they did. And you know what, it was just that, their JOB. The police (over 1900, including Montreal riot police who have dealt with much worse rioting over a hockey game no less) were ordered not to engage the Black Bloc and allowed damage to be done. This is fact. Police insiders have admitted it, it is not some conspiracy.* Oh, and then their job was so hard that they had to engage hundreds of peaceful protesters at Queen and Spadina who were doing nothing illegal, and detained every single one of them. Yep, you’re right, it WAS an awful job. They executed it AWFULLY.

    *The inside sources spoke to The Toronto Sun, a rightwing paper…so I think the fact that this is being published in a pretty pro-police paper says a lot. And I have many contacts at this “news”paper (unfortunately) and their insiders are legit.

  • Michael

    @Mike: Oh and let’s also not forget that their job was so hard that they illegally enforced a law (can be checked within 5m of the fence *which was enforced WAY beyond that 5m*) that NEVER existed.

  • Joseph

    @Mike: Maybe you should inform yourself before you start making false statements about what happened last weekend at the G20 Summit here in Toronto. There were countless violations of peoples charter rights. Get a life!

  • Mike

    All of you watch far too much television. Did you want the police to jump out of Helicopters into the crowd on Saturday throwing batarangs?
    The police couldn’t act until a crime had been committed. Has anyone even considered that perhaps at Queen and Spadina what they were doing was looking for someone?

    Face the facts: there are far worse places in which to live than in Canada – and no, I’m not going to pull that “go try live in Iran / Afghanistan / Iraq” nonsense arguement. I’m talking about Germany, France, the US, Britian – anywhere. If you think that the way the police reacted is any different than how they’d react anywhere else, dream on.

    I certainly think that some things could have been done differently. But then again – it’s easy enough for me to judge after the fact. But at least in THIS country and in THIS city, there will eventually be a review of police actions.

    Go on and continue to live in your little worlds where Canada is a big bad police state and where the police crack down on the poor old gays and innocents. If you want to live in that world, just go ahead, pick up a bottle and throw it at the police. Keep pushing until they have to push back – and eventually, you’ll get your wish.

    As to attacking my statement – none of you even came close to touching my argument. And to use the Toronto Sun as ridiculous. At least use an intelligent right wing newspaper. Why not quote something more cerebral like “HELLO”?

  • Michael

    @Mike: Did I expect them to descend from helicopters? Are you joking? Are you seriously trying to imply that the 1900 police officers and riot control officers are incapable of detaining under 100 rioters? I’m just going to assume that you’re joking because no one can truthfully believe that.

    “The police couldn’t act until a crime had been committed.” Yes, you’re 100% correct. And it is this statement that destroys your argument as to the the Queen & Spadina situation. How can you say that the police couldn’t engage rioters committing crimes and then two sentences later say that the police detained a couple hundred people because they were *maybe* “looking for someone”.

    Lastly, I don’t recall ever saying Canada was a “police state”. Canada is one of the most free countries in the entire world and I am proud to be a citizen, however that does not change the fact that the police acted illegally. I do not think that in other countries there would have been a different outcome, except maybe that the Black Bloc wouldn’t have been allowed to destroy a main thoroughfare in any of the other countries that you mentioned. (You can’t seriously believe that the NYPD would have allowed a few dozen rioters to march up 7th Ave. destroying storefronts and burning police cars).

    But the thing is, one of the major reasons I love Canada is because I thought that maybe, just maybe, in Canada we *would* have acted differently than those other countries. Maybe we would allow peaceful protest and not turn this into a police vs protesters situation. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but that still doesn’t dismiss the fact that “It’s worse in other places” (regardless of severity *i.e. ‘not Afghanistan, but the US’*) doesn’t mean illegally activity didn’t take place.

    Again, I’m not trying to say Canada is a police state or that the police are the “bad guys” but I think it’s irresponsible to claim that there was no wrong doing, sorry, illegal activity on the part of the police.

    Blair’s, public, off-hand comments are alarming to say the least.

    P.S. your comment about The Sun, I’m just as anti-Sun as you are I’m sure, but considering the extremely strong relationship they have with the Toronto Police Service I am inclined to believe that their sources are legitimate. This wasn’t written in some column as opinion, these were comments made by contacts within the TPS that were on the front lines. Whether you want to believe them or not, the rest of my post still stands.

  • Brooke

    @Mike: watch the videos of the cars being torched again. Notice how there are hundreds of heavily-armed and armoured riot police watching the “Black Bloc” get into their uniforms and move to damage the police cars. Notice how they do nothing to stop them. Notice, moreover, how the cars are well ahead of the police lines and unprotected. How did this happen? Are the police powerless to protect their own cars? How could the same rioters go on for 90 minutes breaking windows and causing property damage without police intervention?

    Then, compare these pictures to the police response the next day to the PEACEFUL protest at the detention centre. Watch as most of the police do not even feel the need to be in full riot gear, indicating that they did not think these individuals a serious threat to their safety. Watch as they drive up, jump into the crowd, hit people with batons, fire rubber bullets at them.

    Why did the police do nothing to stop the Black Bloc, whose presence was the primary justification for $1.1 billion in security expenses? Why did they do everything to stop peaceful protests, the freedom to which is guaranteed under the Charter? While we’re at it, why did Chief Blair tell the public that his officers had been granted extraordinary powers for the duration of the summit, and not correct this statement when he realized that he made a mistake? I usally tend to defend police actions, at least arguing that the police were acting in good faith, but there are too many irregularities over the course of the G8/G20 to construct a coherent narrative in which the police did anything other than willfully violate civilian rights.

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