Yesterday, Toronto-based LGBTQ advocacy centre The 519 published a concerning message on their Facebook page. According to their post, two anti-LGBT preachers stood in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village in Toronto on Tuesday, condemning the "sins" of queer and trans people. The two people reportedly arrived at the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley at approximately 4:45 PM, holding a microphone and an amplifier, where they began outwardly denouncing the members of Toronto's LGBTQ community. The 519 says that two individuals were allegedly left injured after the Village Toronto assault.
According to the post, the two people "came to incite a reaction to their violence." As the verbal attack on the community escalated over the next hour, several passersby reported the incident to 9-1-1, requesting police assistance says The 519.
The two anti-LGBT preachers ultimately garnered the attention of the entire neighbourhood, drawing in large crowds of outraged and frustrated people. Some reportedly approached the preachers, asking them to stop and leave the area. Many also insisted that messages of hate were not welcome in the community, says The 519. However, despite the neighbourhood's best efforts, they claim that the preachers refused to withdraw.
In fact, the preachers allegedly provoked members of the community further by mocking those that approached them, claiming that the neighbourhood would not accept the words of their saviour. Unsurprisingly, this angered bystanders further, prompting some to try to unplug the preachers' microphone. Other people pushed the preachers' pamphlets (describing the community's eternal damnation) off tables.
The preacher holding the microphone actually physically attacked those who attempted to intervene by grabbing, pushing, and chasing them. But the community refused to be defeated so easily; they retaliated by "literally defending their right to exist" by pushing back.
Although only one person was allegedly transported to hospital by ambulance, the emotional pain experienced by others was no less hurtful or distressing. The Facebook post recounts "Many were hurt in other ways - by the words that were spoken, by the claims that were made, by the anger that swelled in the crowd. Hurt by the flagrant demonstration of violence and hate at the corner of Church and Wellesley; the place where we live and love and work and play. It took almost an hour for the police to arrive."
The police have since released a statement on the incident, saying that they've opened up an investigation into the matter:
Toronto Police are investigating a disturbance around supper hour at Church/Wellesley Tues April 30. We're talking… https://t.co/A5rgudTzdo— Toronto Police (@Toronto Police)1556725988.0
Finally, after another hour, the preachers left. They announced that they would be back, and the community assured them that they would be too, says The 519.
The 519 is urging anyone who was at the scene or those who may have filmed the event to share their footage with the group, asking for people to report as many perspectives as possible in order to acquire a comprehensive review of what transpired.
@SuzeMorrison I was walking home and saw them... had a feeling they were up to be hateful asses. https://t.co/SzzK4vFarm— Shanna (@Shanna)1556681768.0
The group also confirmed that numerous community initiatives will be implemented as a direct result of the incident, and encourages members of the neighbourhood to get involved in organizing future efforts.
"If you would like to report any incident of violence or hate that occurs in our neighbourhood or in our city please let us know. If you need support or someone to talk to please reach out."
The 519 will be posting updates on their website and through their various social media platforms as the group moves forward with organizing advocacy efforts. The group signed off by urging the public, "Please share this information widely. Please watch out for one another."
One woman, Judi Bonner, commented on The 519's post, "This is disgusting in 2019 for this to be still happening is unconscionable." Another commenter, Nancy McAlpine, wrote, "So sorry that this happened. This hurts my heart to see this meanness, cruelty and hate."