Calgary police investigate 3 potential hate crimes against LGBT community
'It is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend,' police said
Update Aug. 7, 2020: The two men accused in the incident at Ninth Street and Memorial Drive N.W. were identified after photos were released by police. CBC News is not naming the men because they have not been charged, but they say they and their families have received threats after being publicly identified elsewhere.
"Quite simply, stories have been circulated about us that are simply false," they said in a statement. "We fully intend to defend ourselves."
"We ask that the public remember the common wisdom that every story has two sides. We will provide ours in due course."
Calgary police removed the photos from their website after the men were identified. CBC News has also removed the photos from its site.
Original story below:
Calgary police are investigating three potential hate-motivated crimes that targeted members of the LGBT community over the long weekend.
"It is shocking to see anyone targeted for a crime because of a personal characteristic, but it is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend," Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan, with the Calgary police diversity resource team, said in an emailed release Tuesday.
"It is unacceptable that this is happening and we will absolutely investigate any time a crime is motivated by hate or bias."
On midday Friday, a man was assaulted and called homophobic slurs by a group of men near the intersection of 17th Avenue and 12th Street S.W., police said.
On Saturday at 1 p.m., a drag king was recording a video on the rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Centre Street and Stephen Avenue S.W., when a man spat on the performance artist. Police are investigating and collecting security camera footage to help identify the man.
And on Monday, a same-sex couple was walking near the intersection of Ninth Street and Memorial Drive N.W. when two men and two women on electric scooters approached them.
Police said it's believed the two men on scooters assaulted the couple because of their sexual orientation, using a belt, rocks and a recycling bin as weapons.
Police searched the area but couldn't locate the group. The victims were treated for injuries that were non-life-threatening.
The two suspects in that assault are both described as being about 30-years-old, of average height and build, with trim black beards and short black hair. One was wearing black-framed glasses, a white polo shirt, dark pants, brown loafers and white socks. The other was wearing a grey polo shirt with a white collar and sleeves, grey pants and white runners.
A systemic problem
Irfan Chaudhry, director of MacEwan University's Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity, and a hate crime researcher, said it's important to look at these incidents with a broad lens to see the systemic issues at play, not just as one-offs.
"It's another unfortunate example of what we're seeing in terms of anti-LGBTQ2S incidents and crimes," he said.
Chaudhry said the challenge with reporting incidents comes with "more subtle acts of hate" that perhaps might not meet the criminal threshold but still have a negative impact on victims.
"Unfortunately, our Criminal Code is very specific in terms of hate-crime legislation," he said.
"People often feel like why even report it to police."
While it can be difficult to change laws, Chaudhry said, there is room for conversation about how existing laws can be supplemented.
"I think there's ways to beef up language that we currently have," he said.
We fully recognize that sometimes people do not want to involve the police or don't feel comfortable coming to us for help.- Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan
Hate-motivated crimes are crimes where the offender was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on one of nine personal characteristics of the victim, police said, like gender, race or religion.
Police said they encourage anyone who has been targeted for ill treatment or a crime because of their identity to report it so the perpetrators can be held accountable.
The hate motivation is only considered once an offender is found guilty, where it can be considered an aggravating factor to add to the convicted person's sentence.
Involving police in an incident can be a complicated decision, especially for members of marginalized groups.
Police said if someone feels uncomfortable coming forward through traditional channels, they or someone they trust can reach out directly to the diversity resource team or hate crimes co-ordinator by calling 403-428-8399 to find a way to feel more comfortable filing a report.
"We fully recognize that sometimes people do not want to involve the police or don't feel comfortable coming to us for help," Padnivelan said.
"We respect the wishes of those who are most affected by the incident and never force a victim to participate in a police investigation. However, if there is a way we can help make a person feel safe enough to come forward, we want to try do that."
Albertans can also document hate incidents through the province's online reporting tool, StopHateAB.ca.
With files from Tarihih Foroozan