Queers Crash the Beat first came together in response to Project Marie in November, 2016.
• What is Project Marie?
Project Marie is an ongoing police operation targeting men who have sex with men in Marie Curtis Park in Etobicoke. Toronto Police’s 22nd Division used elaborate and overreaching tactics, including going undercover and approaching men who were alone in the park, to target men who were seeking consensual sex. At least 77 men have been charged, mostly for trespassing or indecent exposure.
• What will happen to those men?
These charges may follow them and remain on their police record, which could make it difficult to apply for jobs or volunteer. It’s also possible that many of these guys don’t identify as gay, or aren’t out of the closet in their families, communities or workplace. This kind of charge could have the effect of exposing them in dangerous ways. A group of lawyers is offering free legal help to the men charged.
• Is this part of a pattern?
While it’s not an isolated incident, at this point we don’t know whether the Toronto Police will continue to target men who cruise for sex in parks. But we do know that the police have a long and ongoing history of targeting queer people. The police also continue to unfairly target Black and indigenous communities, people of colour, poor people, and other marginalized people, particularly queer and trans folks among them. In that sense, of course, it is part of a pattern.
• Parks are public. Why don’t guys have sex somewhere else?
For many men who don’t identify as gay, aren’t out of the closet, or are not connected to the LGBT community because of where they live or who they are, discreet cruising in parks is a way to meet other men. Some also enjoy cruising for other reasons. Most men who cruise don’t want to be seen or caught, and want consensual sex.
• Parks are used by families, children, and folks walking their dogs. How does cruising affect them?
It appears that none of the charges brought about by Project Marie involve children or women. Women and children are not endangered by cruising in the park. A single incident is being cited as justification for the sting–involving a man without clothes within sight of the splashpad at the park’s centre. However, this is an isolated incident. There is no evidence to suggest that this incident was related to discreet sex that happens in more hidden areas. Police and the media often claim that queer people and queer sex threatens women, children, and families to justify homophobic attitudes and target queer populations, but this is not true. Sex between consenting adults–regardless of orientation–is perfectly legal.
• Did Project Marie target gay people?
From what we know, the purpose of Project Marie was to stop gay men and other men who have sex with men from accessing Marie Curtis park. This is one more incident in a long history of police targeting queer people, such as the famous Bathhouse Raids in 1981.
• What can I do to stop Project Marie?
Please email the mayor, Shelley Carroll from the police services board, and your city councillor. Click here for a form you can use.
• Who is Queers Crash the Beat?
We are a diverse group of queer people from Toronto who want to push back against homophobic policing such as Project Marie.