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Watch: Today is the 20th Anniversary of Montreal's Sex Garage Raids, Seen as 'Canada's Stonewall'

Today is the 20th anniversary of a series of events that unfolded in Montreal in 1990, seen as comparable to what happened in NYC following the Stonewall raid of 1968.

Montreal Montreal police raided a gathering spot called the Sex Garage in Old Montreal, XTRA writes:

"When cops couldn't find any cash behind the bar, they shut the party down anyway. 'Everybody out!' they screamed. So 400 partygoers — mostly gay men, lesbians and drag queens — filed outside like they were told. Some drag queens climbed out the windows and crawled across century-old rooftops to avoid the cops. They were used to it, too. After all, Montreal police had been raiding and harassing gay spaces for decades, only this time no one was going home: Outside stood 16 police cruisers and 40 officers wielding billy clubs. What no one knew, though, was that history would be made on this morning, at 4am, Jul 16, 1990, and it all began when the cops took off their name tags. 'We were scared when the police got into battalion formation because we knew then that we were going to be beaten,' said Montreal photographer Linda Dawn Hammond, now based in Toronto."

Montreal2 Beatings ensued, as did protests the next day in which demonstrators were dealt with brutally:

"On the afternoon of Jul 16, 1990, fewer than 12 hours after the Sex Garage raid, over 150 gays and lesbians staged a sit-in at the intersection of Ste-Catherine and Amherst streets to protest the brutality at the police bust-up. They demanded a public inquiry, that all charges be dropped and that the gay and lesbian communities each hold a seat on the Montreal Urban Community's minority-relations committee. Everyone went home after being told that then-police chief Alain St-Germain would meet them at downtown Station 25 the next day. Come the next day, 'of course, St-Germain wasn't there,' veteran activist Douglas Buckley-Couvrette, who would die of AIDS in November 2002, told me afterwards. Douglas, along with CBC journalist David Shannon and Paula Sypnowich, represented over 400 protestors at a 'kiss-on' outside Station 25. When their demands were dismissed and they were locked out of the precinct, the protestors demanded to meet with then-mayor Jean Dore, locked arms and occupied the intersection of St-Mathieu and Boulevarde de Maisonneuve. This time the Montreal media was out in full force and the police, armed with latex gloves and billy clubs, didn't disappoint."

A much longer report at XTRA.

Watch a news report from 1990 on the incidents, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Please consider changing the title to "Montreal's Stonewall".. or maybe "French Canada's Stonewall" - the bathhouse raids and subsequent riots in Toronto in 1981 are more widely known to be the flashpoint for many gay orgs for gay civil rights in Canada.

    Posted by: Dan | Jul 15, 2010 1:07:01 PM

  2. I was in the after protest protest on de Maisonneuve and St-Mathieu. People were handing out stickers that said "Do the police a favor and beat yourself up".

    Posted by: BaoPhac Do | Jul 15, 2010 1:18:54 PM

  3. I second Dan's motion, above.

    The Toronto bathhouse raids of February 5, 1981 is more widely recognized as the event that pitted the gay community against the Police, resulting in a number of marches that live on (even though it organizers would rather it didn't) in today's insanely popular Toronto Pride Parade.

    Posted by: Smokey | Jul 15, 2010 1:30:26 PM

  4. Sex Garage was definitely a watershed moment, but I agree with Dan and Smokey -- please consider changing the headline!

    Posted by: Brent | Jul 15, 2010 1:48:42 PM

  5. I agree with the two comments that suggest the 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids are more analogous to NYC's Stonewall. I live in Winnipeg, consider myself a gay activist but I had actually never heard of the Montreal incident until today.

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 15, 2010 1:51:41 PM

  6. I think you mean Stonewall raid of 1969.

    Posted by: Hank | Jul 15, 2010 2:01:03 PM

  7. I agree with previous commentors. The 1981 bathhouse raids are Canada's Stonewall. I had never heard of this more recent event until today.

    Posted by: Randy | Jul 15, 2010 2:06:10 PM

  8. I have heard of it, but then again I live in Montréal. The Toronto raids were a much bigger deal, even here.

    Posted by: Vincent-louis Apruzzese | Jul 15, 2010 2:11:27 PM

  9. MAJOR pet-peeve - why does everything have to be reduced to some "amerikun" phenomenon, irregardless (wink) of the truth, context and historical accuracy.


    Montreal equivalent to Stonewall (if you insist at needing this analogy ) is widely considered here as the raid at a gay bar name Truxx

    not 20 years ago but 32 years ago.

    There is long history of oppression in Montreal and Quebec politics, clubs and gay hanging places were targeted and cleaned up in the 50s, before Expo 67 and also before the 1976 Olympics.

    Much of this is well and thouroughly documented in recent Québécois history books on Montreal Red Light district, etc.

    Posted by: richard | Jul 15, 2010 8:53:16 PM

  10. It really doesn't matter who when and where a raid happened. Which one was bigger, which one was more known, the importance here is that anytime violence happens against people because of their sexual orientation, religious believe or race is a tragedy and shows us how small minded and fearing people are. This happened 20 years ago. Not that long...and some people still live in ignorance and some still encounter homophobia...

    Posted by: Mona | Jul 16, 2010 7:25:54 AM

  11. I was at SexGarage.

    1) It was a great party - I still remember the contortionist...

    2) The police not only closed the party, they chased people who were on foot with police cars and beat them for blocks. It is the only time I have been physically threatened in Montreal and it was by police.

    3) re: American analogy, this must be said: "Montreal's Stonewall" was thanks entirely to the U.S. and anglophone community of the plateau (in the era when bars like Mecano and Business were on St-Laurent, as an alternative to the franco-sovereignist village). The franco gay community (which still is perversely sovereignist) used to hold Pride on St-Jean Baptiste day, and all you'd get were 20 french homos waving fleur-de-lis flags... it had nothing to do with gay pride. The new Divers-Cite, founded post SexGarage, on a new date AWAY from St-Jean Baptiste day, was the birth of the real gay pride movement in Montreal, and the gay positive village we know and love today. A big thanks to the short-lived QUEER NATION and ACT-UP Montreal folk.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Jul 16, 2010 8:38:02 AM

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