On February 5th, 1981 more than 200 plainclothes police officers raided four Toronto bathhouses leading to the largest mass arrest since the October Crisisten years earlier. In total, 289 gay men were charged with being “found-ins of a bawdyhouse” and two were charged with “buggery”.
Men speaking out in the aftermath of the raids described severe misconduct on the part of the police. Some reported being photographed naked, others said police took down their employers’ names and phone numbers and several men stated that police had referred to them as “queers, faggots and fairies”. Moreover, one man reported that several officers used sledgehammers and crowbars with abandon, smashing windows and breaking down doors. This last fact is corroborated by the $38,000 in damages reported by the four bathhouses after the raid (nearly $175,000 in 2020 dollars). In contrast, the police report stated that the officers behaved in a “professional manner.”
A documentary on the bathhouse raids and the ensuing protests quotes Duncan McLaren, one of the men who was charged as a found-in at the Barracks bathhouse.
McLaren describes his victimization by the police:
“We ended up in the shower room and we were all told to strip… But I think one of the most chilling things was… one of the cops said, looking at all the showers and the pipes going into the shower room; he said ‘Gee, it’s too bad we can’t hook this up to gas’.
1883 – Birth date of Mauritz Stiller, the Finnish film director. Stiller was Greta Garbo’s discoverer, mentor, and friend. Tall, lean, gay, with a shock of hair and long expressive hands, Stiller, was not only gay but a flamboyant man about town…One of Stiller’s most important relationships was with Nils Asther, the Danish actor. Stiller was in demand in the film industry and his price to come to Hollywood was a contract for the then pudgy Greta Gustafsson.
1943 – Birth date of Barry Manilow, American singer-songwriter, musician, arranger, producer, conductor, entertainer, and performer. Manilow stayed in the closet for many years, but his sexual orientation was an open secret in the music industry and among the Friends of Dorothy. When Barry Manilow finally did come out in 2017 at the age of 73, it really didn’t really matter and was a shock to no one.
1948 – Anthropologist Ruth Benedict who advocated cross-cultural and racial equality died on this date. She is best remembered for her works on the national character of various cultures including several Native American tribes, and her most famous work on Japan, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Benedict was a sometimes lover and lifelong friend of fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead.
After Benedict passed away Margaret Mead kept the legacy of her lovers work going by supervising projects that Benedict would have looked after, and editing and publishing notes from studies that Benedict had collected throughout her life
1959 – On this date a London court awarded pianist Liberace $22,400 in damages against the “London Daily Mirror” for implying that the flamboyant entertainer was a homosexual by referring to him as a “mincing ice-covered heap of mother love.” The case went to trial, and when Liberace was asked by his own counsel whether he was gay. Liberace said no, saying: “My feelings are the same as anybody else’s. I am against the practice because it offends convention and offends society.” –
Our only guess to how Liberace won the lawsuit is that the jury was both blind and deaf.
1976 – In Toronto, the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario presents a brief “The Homosexual Minority in Ontario” to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
1977 – Vice President Walter Mondale angrily left a San Francisco Democratic fund raising event when his speech on human rights in South America was interrupted by a man who demanded to know when he would speak in favor of gay rights. Members of the newly formed San Francisco Gay Democratic Club held up signs demanding a statement on human rights in the United States. The club was created by Harvey Milk.
1981 – Sen. Roger Jepson (R-IA) introduced the Family Protection Act in Congress. It specified that anyone who was homosexual or openly supportive of homosexuals could not receive student aid, social security, or veterans’ benefits; and regulated what public school textbooks could say about human sexuality. It never passed, and Jepson lost his bid for re-election when it was revealed he had a membership at a brothel.
1983 – New York State Funeral Directors Association announced its members would not embalm the bodies of those who had died of AIDS.
From The New York Times: “The state’s largest such group, urged its members yesterday not to embalm victims of AIDS until the government issues guidelines for safe handling of such cases. Governor Cuomo characterized the action as “unfortunate.” He said he had asked state officials to investigate all legal remedies “to insure that the civil rights and human dignities of AIDS victims’ families are not compromised.”
It was HELL.
1985 – Johnny Greene was fired from his job with McDermott International Inc. after writing an article for PEOPLE magazine about his own suspected case of AIDS. “They just walked in and said, ‘Get the hell out,’ Green said. “I hope they were acting out of panic or confusion, not belligerence or homophobia.”
Immediately after being fired, PEOPLE magazine hired Greene and put him under contract to report on the AIDS epidemic.
1989 – Jessie Portis Helm, a columnist for Gentleman’s Quarterly, died
1990 – Twelve US marines attacked three gay men outside The Remington bar(pg.4) on Capitol Hill, leaving two of them unconscious. Two of the marines were fined $400 and confined to their barracks for 30 days. Despite witness accounts that several of the marines chanted, “Kill the fags,” Marine officials ruled that it was not a gay bashing but a bar brawl.
1990 – Mayor P.J. Morgan of Omaha, Nebraska declared the week of June 17 as “Understanding Our Differences, Respect All People Week.” Though in coincided with gay pride week, he received criticism for not mentioning gays and lesbians in the proclamation.
2005 – On this date the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops agreed to a five-year extension on their unprecedented policy of permanently barring sexually abusive clergy from church work. They did not take the opportunity to stop scapegoating gay clergy for the institutional church’s misdeeds. – Obviously the barring of sexually abusive clergy did not work.
2006 – An estimated 2.4 million people took to the streets of Sao Paulo to celebrate the Brazilian city’s 10th annual Gay Pride parade.The record attendance — the largest in the world, according to organizers — topped 2005’s official crowd count of 1.8 million, and was a far cry from the 2,000 people who took part when Sao Paulo’s first Pride was held a decade ago. Some revelers dressed up as Batman, Elvis Presley, Cinderella or Marie Antoinette; others as gay cowboy lovers Jake and Heath from “Brokeback Mountain”.
Toronto police announced new charges Monday after connecting an 8th murder against serial killer Bruce McArthur who targeted gay men, sex workers, and immigrants.
McArthur now faces first-degree murder charges for the killing of Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, who was slain sometime between Sept. 3 and Dec. 14, 2015, according to the Toronto Police Service.
All of the previously identified victims had ties to Toronto’s Gay Village community. The killing spree dates back at least until 2010, according to police.
Police are still investigating Kanagaratnam’s background, but have yet to find any connection between the immigrant and the gay community, said Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator.
Investigators were able to identify Kanagaratnam, 37, who came to Canada from Sri Lanka in 2010, after releasing a photo of him last week. He had not been reported missing.
“He doesn’t quite fit the profile we’ve seen before,” said Idsinga, who declined to comment on Kanagaratnam’s immigration status.
McArthur, who made a brief court appearance Monday where he was read the new charges, now has been implicated in the slayings of eight men between 2010 and 2017. Seven of the victims’ remains were found in planters at a property where the suspect stored tools.
Police in Toronto have faced criticism in the city’s LGBT community, who question why it took so long for authorities to ascertain a serial killer had been preying on gay men. The Toronto Globe & Mail and Toronto Star have reported that McArthur had been questioned by police in 2013 or 2014.
“We knew something was up. … We did not have the evidence,” Chief Mark Saunders told The Globe and Mail in a February interview. “If anyone knew before us, it’s people who knew him very, very well. And so that did not come out.”
Police arrested McArthur in January and initially charged him with murdering Andrew Kinsman, an LGBT activist, and Selim Esen, 44, a Turkish immigrant.
McArthur was later charged with the murders of Dean Lisowick, a sex worker, Majeed Kayhan, a 58-year-old Afghan immigrant who had been missing since 2012; Soroush Marmoudi, a 50-year-old immigrant from Iran reported missing in 2015; Skandaraj Navaratnam, a refugee from Sri Lanka who was last seen in 2010.
Toronto police have found a seventh set of remains related to the investigation into serial killer Bruce McArthur and have released a picture of a bearded, darker skinned dead man.
Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga said Monday they could not identify the man in the picture and are now seeking the public’s help.
“I do not want to release this picture and I’m doing so as a last resort,” he said.
This brings the number of seven individuals found this year in large planters at a home where McArthur did landscaping work and stored objects.
Idsinga said they realize how difficult it might be for a relative or friend to see the picture and realize the man is deceased.
“I’ve never done this before,” he said about releasing the photo. “I do it with great hesitation. It is obviously a key piece of evidence that we have that we are releasing, but we feel by releasing it, hopefully we can identify him and close off that area of the investigation.
Investigators have not yet released complete details, but Bruce McArthur is believed to have met his alleged victims in the Gay Village and on gay dating apps for older and large men with names such as “SilverDaddies” and “Bear411.”
McArthur, a grandfather and former mall Santa Claus, has not entered a plea. His case is due back in court March 14. Edward Royle, a lawyer for McArthur, has previously declined to comment on the case.
Toronto police have now recovered the remains of six individuals in an investigation into what they have described as the work of a serial killer. Bruce McArthur, 66, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the disappearances of Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick.
Speaking Thursday at a home on Mallory Cres., near Bayview and Moore Aves., where Bruce McArthur mowed the owner’s lawn in exchange for storing landscaping equipment in the garage, Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga said Kinsman’s remains are among those recovered.
Investigators have expanded their search to more than 30 properties tied to McArthur’s landscaping business. Police have been at the Mallory house since Jan. 18, when they arrived with a search warrant forcing Karen Fraser and Ron Smith to leave their home.
In 2001 McArthur bludgeoned a man with a metal pipe and was convicted on three counts – possession of a dangerous weapon, assault with a weapon, and assault causing bodily harm – in 2003. The attack was so violent that he was sentenced to two years less a day of a conditional sentence, and three years probation as well as having a host of conditions imposed upon being spared jailtime. He was banned from the streets that constitute Toronto’s gay village and forbidden from consorting with male prostitutes.
McArthur had a profile seeking sexual encounters on SilverDaddies.coma dating and sex site for older men and their admirers.
Toronto police have announced three additional counts of first-degree murder have been laid against Bruce McArthur. Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga told reporters Monday that McArthur is being charged with three additional counts of first-degree murder in relation to the deaths of Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Marmudi and Dean Lisowick.
Lisowick was never reported missing to police. Investigators believe he was murdered between May 2016 and July 2017. He would’ve been 47-years-old at the time of his death. Marmudi was 50-years-old when he was reported missing by his family in Scarborough.
Idsinga told reporters that the remains from “at least” three victims were found at the bottom of three large planters, which were located on properties linked to McArthur. Police have obtained over a dozen planters from around the city.
Police have identified 30 properties linked to McArthur, and “have conducted searches at the majority of them,” Idsinga said. Police believe there are more remains at some of these properties, and are actively working to uncover more.
Toronto police charged a 66-year-old man for allegedly murdering two gay men and admitted they believe he’s responsible for several other deaths after a rash of disappearances in Toronto’s gay community.
Homicide Detective-Sgt. Hank Idsinga said Bruce McArthur, who works as a self-employed landscape designer was arrested at 10:25 a.m. this morning after significant progress was made in the investigation into the Village disappearances on Wednesday.
Although no bodies were recovered, McArthur was charged with the first-degree murder of Andrew Kinsman, 49 and Selim Esen, 42. Kinsman was last seen on June 26, less than two km away from the Village, a downtown neighbourhood known as a hub to the LGBTQ community. Two months earlier, Esen was last seen one block north of the neighbourhood.
Idsinga said both Kinsman and Esen had a relationship with McArthur formed through dating apps.
Police had been investigating McArthur for months, they said. Yesterday, they discovered evidence that “pushed [them] over the edge.”
“We have some evidence that leads us to believe there are further victims,” said Idsinga. “We are aware of the other missing men from the village, and we’re trying to identify whether they’ve become victims of Mr. McArthur as well.”
After denying there was a serial killer behind a rash of disappearances, Idsinga refused to label McArthur a “serial killer”.
It appears the group that pushed for and largely succeeded in keeping police out of the Toronto Pride Parade won’t be marching there this year either.
Pride Toronto says that the final deadline for groups to register to march in this year’s parade was May 30, and Black Lives Matter did not reach out to indicate that they wished to attend.
Last year, members of Black Lives Matter- Toronto staged a sit-in protest during the parade, near Yonge and College streets, and refused to move unless then-Pride executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a list of their demands.
One of the demands was that Pride exclude police from running floats in future parades.
Chantelois signed the list and the parade carried on. In 2016, Pride invited Black Lives Matter to march in the parade as honoured guests.
Last month, Pride Toronto issued a statement saying police could only march in the 2017 parade, scheduled for June 25, if they did so in civilian clothing, without vehicles or visible weapons.
A myriad of groups, including Toronto firefighters and members of Canada’s military have registered to march in the parade.
This year despite the fact that Black Lives Matter TO is set to be honored at the July 3rd Gay Pride parade it didn’t stop them from crashing a Toronto Police news conference Friday, where Chief Mark Saunders unveiled a mural honoring the local LGBTQ community chanting “No pride in police”
The mural, in the gay village near the corner of Church and Wood Sts., is meant to celebrate the history, diversity and strength of Toronto’s LGBTQ community, according to a police news release.
But the protesters claim the media event, like the Toronto police chief’s public apology this week for the 1981 bathhouse raids, was a publicity stunt.
They are “PR tools used to mask the reality of police relations amongst the queer and trans community: black people, indigenous people, sex workers et cetera,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Rodney Diverlus, 26, after disrupting the unveiling.
The reverend and gay rights activist, Brent Hawkes, tried to mediate between Black Lives Matter and the police, to no avail.
Black Lives Matter is still waiting for the police to meet the demands it made after its tent city protest outside police headquarters on College St. this spring, Diverlus added.
At the time, the protesters called for a face-to-face meeting with Saunders and an overhaul of the Special Investigations Unit, the civilian agency that investigates serious crimes allegedly committed by officers.
Const. David Hopkinson, a police spokesperson, said the chief’s apology for the raids and the new mural aren’t empty gestures.
“I believe the chief was heartfelt in his apology for the bathhouse raids. He was sincere in his words.”
Meanwhile on our side of the pond……
The San Francisco Bay Area’s chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) has pulled out of San Francisco’s gay pride parade because the city provided an increased police presence for security in wake of the Orlando shootings.
In a statement announcing its withdrawal, Black Lives Matter insisted that the increased police presence “does not increase safety for all people.”
BLM spokeswoman Malkia Cyril claimed, “We know firsthand that increasing the police presence at Pride does not increase safety for all people. Militarizing these events increases the potential for harm to our communities and we hope in the future SF Pride will consider community-centered approaches to security at pride events.”
Malkia also insisted, “As queer people of color, we are disproportionately targeted by both vigilante and police violence.”
On February 5th. 1981, more than 200 plainclothes police officers raided four Toronto bathhouses leading to the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis ten years earlier. In total, 289 were charged with being “found-in a common bawdy house” and 2 men actually being charged with “buggery”.
This week speaking before Speaking before Toronto Mayor John Tory and leaders within the gay community Toronto police chief Mark Saunders issued a long overdue apology for the bathouse raids of 1981 which th Toronto PD called “Operation Soap”.
“The 35th anniversary of the 1981 raids is a time when the Toronto Police service expresses its regret for those very actions,” and called the raids “one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history” and acknowledged the “destructiveness” of the police action.
“It is also an occasion to acknowledge the lessons learned about the risks of treating any part of Toronto’s many communities as not fully a part of society.” Saunders recognized the successful efforts within the gay community to fight against the long list of charges. Almost all the charges against those arrested were eventually dropped.
“An extraordinary community response led to the eventual acquittal of almost everyone arrested that night,” Saunders said.
Men speaking out in the aftermath of the raids described severe misconduct on the part of the police. Some reported being photographed naked, others said police took down their employers’ names and phone numbers and several men stated that police had referred to them as “queers, faggots and fairies”. Moreover, one man reported that several officers used sledgehammers and crowbars with abandon, smashing windows and breaking down doors. This last fact is corroborated by the $38,000 in damages reported by the four bathhouses after the raid (nearly $100,000 in 2015 dollars). In contrast, the police report stated that the officers behaved in a “professional manner.”
Following the raids, thousands of people rallied outside police headquarters and marched down Yonge Street in a defiant statement of solidarity.
“That was the takeoff point for the takeoff of the Toronto gay community that we know today,” said Brian Mossop was inside a bathhouse that night. “Before that, the gay community — at least the out-of-the-closet gay community — had been very small, only a handful of gay activists. But suddenly vast numbers of people decided they wanted to get involved, and many, many people decided that it was time to come out of the closet.”
The community quickly united. A committee was later formed to help cover legal costs for the 286 men who were charged, reach out to the media and plan further protests. Literary heavyweight Margaret Atwood made headlines when she weighed in on the raids, famously saying, “What do the police have against cleanliness?”
Some newspapers later published the names of the men arrested in the raids.
You can read more about the 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids by CLICKING HERE.