British Columbia

Protesters accuse VPD of 'failing' gay community amid slew of hateful messages

Protesters say preachers spreading anti-gay rhetoric should have been arrested for disturbing the peace.

Protesters say preachers spreading anti-gay rhetoric should have been arrested for disturbing the peace

The Coalition Against Bigotry rallied at the corner of Davie and Bute streets on Saturday. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Amid a series of clashes between West End residents and preachers alleged to have spread anti-gay messaging, protesters say the Vancouver Police Department has failed to protect the queer community.

A small crowd rallied on the corner of Davie and Bute streets Saturday, waving yellow flags and denouncing hateful rhetoric that has been spread throughout neighbourhood over the last few weeks.

"We've seen hate pastors on Davie for months and the community feels unsafe," said Imtiaz Popat, an organizer with the Coalition Against Bigotry — Pacific.

"Somebody took actions into his own hands and had his [leg] broken. So we're saying the Vancouver Police Department hasn't been protecting us, and they need to do better."

Imtiaz Popat addresses a crowd of protesters, alleging the VPD has failed to protect Vancouver's gay community from hate speech. (Jon Hernande/CBC)

Popat points to an incident on Aug. 30 where Toronto pastor David Lynn — who has been accused of anti-gay hate speech — was performing baptisms at Sunset Beach Park. A counter-rally was planned called "Dance Against Hate."

The police presence at the event that was criticized by members of the LGBT community. Popat says officers were protecting Lynn but failed to protect the gay community.

"They said he wasn't breaking any laws," said Popat. "They created a bubble around him and they didn't stop him ... they pushed the protesters and they assaulted protesters to protect Lynn."

Street preacher David Lynn delivered a speech in Vancouver's West End on Aug. 31 surrounded by Vancouver police officers. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC news)

In a statement, VPD said they monitor many demonstrations to prevent criminal acts from taking place while ensuring the safety of the protesters, the public, and the police. Any action by an officer "must be necessary, legitimate, legal, and proportionate to the situation," said VPD Const. Tania Visitin.

Popat is among a group of volunteers that have launched a neighbourhood group called the Pink Pumas. He says they will patrol Davie Street on Saturdays to promote safety.

Previous altercations

Lynn has previously been arrested in Toronto for disturbing the peace in the city's gay village. Charges were subsequently dropped.

Altercations between West End residents and anti-gay preachers have been ongoing in the community since mid-August. 

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has denounced the hateful rhetoric. On Thursday, he said is looking into "innovative" legal solutions, like "bubble zones," to stop the messaging.

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