On Sept. 14, 2000, Toronto Police raided the Club Toronto bathhouse during an event called the Pussy Palace, organized by the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee.
About 350 women were attending, many of whom were nude when six male officers entered the building.
The committee declined to accept a historic apology this week from Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders for raids on four gay bathhouses 35 years ago.
Chanelle Gallant, an activist and a former member of the committee who was at Club Toronto on the night of the raid, spoke to The Globe and Mail.
Could you describe that night?
The Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee was a collective of women that organized a large, queer women’s party, Pussy Palace. The event had been going on for a couple of years. And then on the evening of Sept. 14, we experienced a police raid with undercover officers at first, and then six uniformed officers who spent hours in the bathhouse intimidating, harassing and questioning participants.
After that, charges were laid against two of the participants who had their names on the liquor licence. These charges were all later thrown out and we won a $350,000 settlement against the Toronto Police Service for their treatment. It was considered to be a violation of our human rights, the way that they conducted the raid.
In the aftermath of the raid, what was the feeling within the LGBTQ community?
There was a great deal of rage. There was an incredible response to it. We held a community meeting within a week or so later, and hundreds of people turned out. A spontaneous march on police headquarters was organized at the meeting. There were hundreds of queers marching through the streets screaming, “Out of the bars into the street!” There was a very clear connection made to the 1981 bathhouse raids, so we had very strong support from gay men who’d been affected by that.
Why did the committee refuse to accept the apology from the Toronto Police?
We appreciate the apology that has been given by the police in regard to the 1981 bathhouse raids is well-intentioned and that it speaks to an improved relationship between some members of the LGBTQ and police.
But we didn’t feel like it spoke to all of the issues that remain. … It leaves out the criminalization and violent targeting of racialized, indigenous and marginalized groups within and outside of LGBTQ communities.
An apology is meaningless without concrete actions attached and the demands of Black Lives Matter are the best starting point. We believe that Toronto Police Service should build from there. While we believe in collaborative work and the possibilities that can arise in incremental change, it is time for a more revolutionary analysis of the policing of all marginalized communities. There is no justice for any of us until there is justice for all of us.
How would you characterize your personal relationship with the police?
I do not believe the police protect us. I believe that the police should be defunded and that funds should be redirected into community services that keep us safe. I believe that the police should respond to the concrete and specific, urgent demands that groups like Black Lives Matter are making.Report Typo/Error
Follow us on Twitter: