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The Battle of Church Street: Queers, Police, and the Streets of Toronto, 1981

Tom Hooper
York University
Watson Hall 517

On February 5, 1981, Toronto police raided four gay bathhouses and arrested over 300 men, charging them under the criminal code’s bawdy-house law. The following night more than 3000 demonstrators took to the streets of downtown Toronto in protest. Often labelled “Canada’s Stonewall”, this moment has been constructed in dominant narratives as being a major turning point in the relationship between queers and the police, responsible for ushering in a new progressive era of “human rights”. The problem is that this narrative erases the broader struggles that were occurring between queer activists and the state. In this paper I resurrect the history of 1981 beyond the February 5th bath raids, I explore the other moments that same year in which queers went out into the streets. These moments of street protest highlight a neglected history of continued criminalization, escalating police violence, and solidarities with feminist, Black, Indigenous and racialized struggles.

Workshop participants should read and be prepared to discuss Dr. Hooper's paper. To obtain a copy, please contact Dr. Lisa Pasolli ( 

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.