DNA Magazine - - TRAVEL -

On Fe­bru­ary 5, 1981, lo­cal po­lice con­ducted Op­er­a­tion Soap and raided ev­ery gay bath­house in Toronto. Po­lice smashed and de­stroyed each of the venues and made over 300 men stand out­side in the cold while they were hu­mil­i­ated by the lo­cal press. It was the big­gest mass ar­rest in Cana­dian his­tory.

The event, of­fi­cially known as The Bath Raids but lo­cally re­mem­bered as “our Stonewall” was a cat­a­lyst for a lo­cal gay rights move­ment. Be­fore then, the com­mu­nity didn’t have a strong po­lit­i­cal iden­tity. Largely fo­cused around bars, it had never had a for­mal com­mu­nity meet­ing. The bath raids in­spired thou­sands to band to­gether. Peace­ful but per­sis­tent, their on­go­ing protests helped to chan­nel the com­mu­nity’s anger. Or­gan­i­sa­tions sprang up to de­fend the men, bar pa­trons turned into ac­tivists, and an of­fi­cial Pride be­gan as a pic­nic in June, 1981. To­day, Toronto’s an­nual Pride cel­e­bra­tion at­tracts over 1.2 mil­lion at­ten­dees, mak­ing it one of the largest Pride events in the world.

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