Montreal Sex Garage LGBT party raid, 25 years later
Photographer Linda Dawn Hammond captured Montreal police raid, attack on gay and lesbian party-goers on film
On a hot night at the height of the summer of 1990, hundreds of gay and lesbian Montrealers faced off against police during a raid at the Sex Garage loft party.
The events of that night would later be recognized as a watershed moment for the LGBT community in the city.
Photographer Linda Dawn Hammond was snapping photos inside the Sex Garage at the corner of De La Gauchetière and Beaver Hall, near Old Montreal, when police entered the party around 4 a.m. on July 16, 1990.
I just sort of slid the camera along the ground and yelled, "Grab the camera! Run!"and hoped that someone would hear me- Linda Dawn Hammond
The party-goers were forced out onto the street, where they were met by a few dozen police officers. Hammond told CBC Daybreak on Wednesday that some of the officers were shouting homophobic slurs and making lewd gestures at the Sex Garage patrons.
The revellers replied by chanting "Gay rights now!" and other slogans.
Hammond said police officers huddled together in consultation, after which they removed their nametags.
"To let us know they were about to do something they didn't want to be recognized for," Hammond told CBC's Mike Finnerty.
Hammond was equipped with only a wide-angle lens, a flash with dying batteries and three rolls of film.
"I had a wide-angle lens, and so with a wide-angle lens everything always looks a little further away than it actually is. So I was about five feet away from them for the most part while I was shooting and they were very, very angry at me," Hammond said.
She'd pop out, snap a photo and then retreat to allow her flash to charge. The brightness of the flash made her an easy target; knowing that, she handed off the two rolls of film she'd already shot.
"I was photographing [the police] with and without ID badges, so I knew they would come after me," Hammond said.
"My friend Darryl was there on a bicycle and I gave him the two rolls of film I had already shot… all I had was the roll in my camera."
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Hammond said a police officer hit her in the back of the knees, forcing her to the ground.
As she fell, she pivoted to land on her arm rather than damage the camera or the film inside of it.
"I knew they would be after the camera, so I just kind of braced myself and said, 'OK, this is no longer a camera. This is a box with something really important in it' and I threw it up the hill. I was lying there on the ground and I could see feet. There was commotion and people yelling. I didn't even know who was up ahead, but I just sort of slid the camera along the ground and yelled, 'Grab the camera! Run!' and hoped that someone would hear me and hoped someone I knew would get it," Hammond said.
Luckily, a journalist had heard her cry for help and scooped up the camera, unbeknownst to the police.
He made eye contact with Hammond as she lay on the ground and pointed to the Mickey Mouse camera strap.
Hammond breathed a sigh of relief. She wiggled away from police and took her pictures to La Presse and The Gazette, who published the photos the following day.
Her catalogue of the violent confrontation will be on display at Place Émilie-Gamelin as part of Montréal Pride's events this week leading up to the weekend pride parade.
Sex Garage: The photos you weren't meant to see runs from Aug. 12–16, with the vernissage scheduled for Aug. 12 at 5:30 p.m.