Remembering Operation Soap…

It’s not unknown that the police arrived at Stonewall Inn on June 28th 1969 to arrest and intimidate people from the LGBTQ community. The people fought back and coordinated into groups to support and encourage each other. On June 28th, 1970 they headed onto the streets to march in remembrance of the raid and subsequent riots. And thus began Pride Parades in the United States.

Toronto’s story occurred a decade later with Operation Soap on February 5, 1981 when two hundred plain clothed police officers descended on four bathhouses in Toronto, arresting 291 people and twenty bathhouse owners. They caused $38,000 in damages ($104,147.74 in 2016 dollars), photographed people in the nude and demanded to know where they worked and how to contact their employers. Ninety percent of the charges were eventually dropped.

There were huge protests and rallies after these raids which culminated in Toronto’s Pride Week, one of the world’s largest pride celebrations. However one thing remained lacking, an official apology from the police department. That didn’t arrive until June 23, 2016, less than one year ago, when Chief Mark Saunders apologized.

A week after this apology, on July 3rd, Black Lives Matters briefly stopped the Toronto Pride Parade with a list of demands, one of which was the removal of police floats from the Pride Parade. Pride Toronto agreed with their list and I personally agree as well.

I don’t feel the police department should ever have had a float in the Pride Parade. While the parade now is less of a protest and more of a rainbow extravaganza, it still has its roots in police brutality, discrimination, and oppression. If the police want to show their support then they should show that times have changed by protecting and defending the parade members and their supporters. And, while no one’s asked me, I think they’d be better off operating a free phone charging station and offering water bottles than having yet another float. They’d get one on one contact with the public and garner lots of good will.

Jeremy disagrees with me. At first he thought the parade was a protest for equal marriage and then he wanted to know if it was illegal to have “gay sex” at that time. I tried to explain that the law had a loop hole where anal sex, between two people, was allowed but public sex wasn’t but I’m not sure if I explained myself clearly or not.

He listened patiently then informed me that “times have changed since then. They have the rainbow police car now and want to be in the parade. They arrest people for attacking gay people now. It’s time to live and let live, if they want to support gay people now then let them support gay people.”

Jeremy and I

Jeremy and I at the Oshawa 2015 Pride Parade

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