British Columbia

Man whose confrontation with anti-gay street preachers ended in broken bones says he'd do it again

Justin Morissette was getting ready for a date — a barbecue on his fourth-floor apartment deck — when he became annoyed by a loud sidewalk demonstration.

Justin Morissette says he was 'moved to tears' when nurse thanked him for 'sticking up' for LGBT people

J.D. Burke, left, and his roommate Justin Morissette share a moment after Morissette underwent treatment for a broken leg and dislocated knee. Morissette was injured on Saturday after confronting anti-gay street preachers in Vancouver's West End. (Submitted by Justin Morissette)

Justin Morissette was getting ready for a date — a barbecue on his fourth-floor apartment deck — when he became annoyed by a loud sidewalk demonstration. Two preachers were blasting anti-gay rhetoric in the rainbow-festooned Davie Street village, the historical enclave of Vancouver's gay community. 

The 33-year-old broadcaster, with local radio station Sportsnet 650, confronted the preachers — and ended up with a broken leg.

Despite the pain, Morissette told CBC News from his hospital bed, he'd do it again.

As previously reported, police were called to the area near Davie and Thurlow streets in Vancouver's West End about 8 p.m. PT on Saturday. Police and witnesses confirmed the details of the confrontation. 

Witnesses say the preachers had become a common fixture off and on for weeks, and that the city and police have done little. As Morissette approached, he says he could see the faces of his neighbours and the effect the anti-gay chants were having, especially on older members of the community.

"Like hell if I'm going to let these hate-mongers come in and make my neighbours feel threatened and unsafe," he said.

Morissette said he initially yelled that he does not pay $1,400-per-month to listen to this "garbage."

"I did not want this hate speech to be the soundtrack to our evening," he said.

First Morissette says he yelled and swore. Then, he says, he tried to turn down the sound system and snatched away their microphone.

"It was really easy to take because I'm bigger and stronger than them," he said.

That's when, he says, one man jumped on his back and another put him in a wrestling lock from behind. Then, Morissette said, the second man put a leg behind his and wrenched his body until the bones in his left leg "snapped."

Morissette's leg was broken in two places after the confrontation near Davie and Thurlow streets. (Submitted by Justin Morissette)

"He resorted to the dirtiest tactics imaginable," said Morissette.

Morissette has two broken leg bones and a dislocated knee. A series of pins were inserted to stabilize his leg with an external metal rod. He will need surgery in about a week, after the swelling goes down. He says he expects to be in hospital for a few weeks at the least. Full recovery could take years and he says he may need a metal plate in his leg.

The two other men were arrested at the scene. One of them has accused Morissette of attacking them and described their actions as defensive.

Dorre Love, in a YouTube video, says he was one of the preachers. The identity of the other man has not been made public.

"I was assaulted," Love says in the video. "A gentleman took my mic out of my hands and tried to get away with it."

Morissette admits taking the microphone but adds: "I did not attack anyone."

Outpouring of support 

Morissette said that he felt compelled to act, out of the warmth he's felt from his community and his concerns about the uptick in hate crimes he's seen during the pandemic.

He admits, during moments of intense pain, he's had moments of regret. But the outpouring of public support — including a GoFundMe campaign — has helped erase some of the self doubt, he says. 

Vancouver police have forwarded a report to Crown that, if approved, could see the two men charged with aggravated assault and mischief. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

At one point during his treatment, he said, the nurse helping with treatment "put his hand on my arm and said 'Thank you for sticking up for us.'"

"At a moment when I was in intense pain, to hear something like that, moved me to tears," said Morissette.

"A stranger on Twitter reaching out to my DMs [direct messages] to tell me that they have a gay or trans or closeted son or daughter and that what I did means the world to them. That always reaffirms to me that I did the right thing," he said.

As for the date, he's hoping the woman gives him another shot, after the initial night went so sideways.

Vancouver Police Sgt. Aaron Roed said police have forwarded a charge package to Crown for approval.

If approved, the two men will face charges of aggravated assault and mischief. 

The pair have been released on the condition they not contact each other or Morissette and stay out of an area of the West End between Comox Street to the north, Burrard Street to the east, Denman Street to the west and Beach Avenue to the south, including English Bay and Sunset beaches.

Police says hate crime investigators will also be looking into the incident.

Morissette will need surgery in about a week, after the swelling goes down. He says he expects to be in hospital for a few weeks at the least. (Submitted by Justin Morissette)


Yvette Brend

CBC journalist

Yvette Brend works in Vancouver on all CBC platforms. Her investigative work has spanned floods, fires, cryptocurrency deaths, police shootings and infection control in hospitals. “My husband came home a stranger,” an intimate look at PTSD, won CBC's first Jack Webster City Mike Award (2017). Got a tip?