Walk the Beat sees community, police come together to 'take back' Marie Curtis Park

News Nov 19, 2016 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

Both supporters and detractors of 22 Division’s Project Marie in Marie Curtis Park braved the cold and rainy weather this weekend to have their voices heard at the Etobicoke waterfront park.

According to Const. Kevin Ward of 22 Division’s Community Response Unit, Saturday afternoon’s Walk the Beat event was organized as the culmination of the two-month police operation aimed at cracking down on ‘lewd’ behaviour at the park that straddles the Mississauga border.

“We’re trying to get the community involved to actively use the park, to feel safe in the park and to deter some of the other illegitimate activities that are taking place here,” Ward said of Saturday’s event, which included a barbecue, park clean-up, and candle light walk through the park at dusk with officers from both the Toronto and Peel Region police services.

In total, Ward said 89 charges have been laid against 78 people over the course of Project Marie. Of those charges, only one was criminal, while the other 88 were bylaw and Provincial Offences Act charges: 71 for lewd behaviour, 13 for being in the park after hours, three for trespassing and one in relation to the Liquor Licence Act.

For local residents like Diana, who asked that her last name not be used, news of Project Marie came as a relief.

The mother of two, who’s lived across the street from Marie Curtis for more than four years, said she often frequents the park with her three-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son – but it was only recently that she had her first “alarming” confrontation in the park.

“It was the first nice day of spring this May and I was just walking with my son on the (shared pedestrian/cyclist) path close to the lake on the Mississauga side,” she said in an interview with the Etobicoke Guardian on Saturday.

“Then all of a sudden out of the bushes comes this man completely naked – as naked as the day he was born – holding what looked like a pair of underwear, and he literally just sauntered across the path as if this was the most normal thing.”

The man, with whom she made eye contact, neither spoke to her nor made any threatening move to approach her, but Diana said she was still left shaken by the encounter.

“It was quite alarming to me, because I was there by myself and he was quite a big guy,” she said, noting that she quickly left the area and reported the incident to police.

Not everyone in attendance at Saturday’s Walk the Beat event, however, was supportive of local police’s efforts through Project Marie.

Mikiki, who doesn’t use a last name, was one of several concerned members of the LGBT community in Toronto who organized a Facebook group called ‘Queers Crash the Beat’ to host a peaceful protest at Marie Curtis Park to coincide with Saturday’s Walk the Beat event.

“Undercover sting operations are usually reserved for the most serious or heinous of crimes. When we see that the tickets issued (for Project Marie) are mostly for bylaw infractions, yet we have this level or organization and expenditure happening, it really does seem unbalanced,” Mikiki said.

“..They say it’s not targeted towards gay men, but when all the people that are charged are men who are having sex with men, it makes the gay community feel like we’ve been targeted.”

The purpose of the protest, he added, was fourfold:

- to call for an end to Toronto Police Services’ “wild and inflammatory rhetoric” about the nature of the Project Marie arrests;

- to call on the LGBTQ2 community to offer “support and understanding” for the men arrested in Project Marie, and ask them to come together to demand that Toronto Police Services cease and desist Project Marie and any similar undercover sting operations in the future.

- to call on Police Chief Mark Saunders to publicly condemn Project Marie, to clarify who at Toronto Polices Services gave the go-ahead for the operation, and to reveal the total costs associated with it.

- and, lastly, to call on Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to intervene and withdraw all charges facing the individuals charged as a result of Project Marie, and to expunge those individuals’ records.

Etobicoke-Lake Councillor Mark Grimes called that criticism of Project Marie “misinformed.”

“They think it was an uncover sting operation, but that’s totally incorrect,” Grimes said. “We had an educational component to it, when officers were down here in uniform for a couple weeks, then charges were laid. “So that’s not what it’s about – it’s about stopping the lewd behaviour in our park and that’s all it’s about.”

Const. Ward, too, was quick to defend Project Marie, saying that, first and foremost, it is not a homophobic campaign at all.

“It’s regrettable that it has been portrayed as such. At the end of the day, this is a public space, this is a public park for families and children to enjoy – not a playground for adults to engage in sexual behaviour – and that is the point that seems to be forgotten in a lot of this,” he said.

“No person should ever be worried about being approached for sex in a park, they should never have to worry about fighting off people that are coming and physically grabbing them, or aggressively soliciting them for sexual behaviour. It’s just not something that should ever be a factor, and unfortunately in many cases it has been.”

“Regardless of whether it’s a male and female or two males engaged in the behaviour, it’s not appropriate and it would be dealt with in the same way,” he added.

Despite the controversy surrounding it, local residents like Diana, too, remain supportive of Project Marie and its efforts to put a stop to public sex in their neighbourhood park.

“I don’t really buy into this theory that it’s discriminatory...and I don’t think it can be compared to the Bathhouse Raids or anything else like that, because it’s a totally different thing,” Diana said.

“This is a public park, and whether you’re straight or gay, it’s against the law to have sex in a public space...If my husband and I decided to do that, we would get persecuted too, right? There’s no loophole in the law, regardless of who you are, to be able to do something like that.”

Walk the Beat sees community, police come together to 'take back' Marie Curtis Park

Event is culmination of Project Marie police operation aimed at cracking down on ‘lewd’ behaviour in the park

News Nov 19, 2016 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

Both supporters and detractors of 22 Division’s Project Marie in Marie Curtis Park braved the cold and rainy weather this weekend to have their voices heard at the Etobicoke waterfront park.

According to Const. Kevin Ward of 22 Division’s Community Response Unit, Saturday afternoon’s Walk the Beat event was organized as the culmination of the two-month police operation aimed at cracking down on ‘lewd’ behaviour at the park that straddles the Mississauga border.

“We’re trying to get the community involved to actively use the park, to feel safe in the park and to deter some of the other illegitimate activities that are taking place here,” Ward said of Saturday’s event, which included a barbecue, park clean-up, and candle light walk through the park at dusk with officers from both the Toronto and Peel Region police services.

In total, Ward said 89 charges have been laid against 78 people over the course of Project Marie. Of those charges, only one was criminal, while the other 88 were bylaw and Provincial Offences Act charges: 71 for lewd behaviour, 13 for being in the park after hours, three for trespassing and one in relation to the Liquor Licence Act.

For local residents like Diana, who asked that her last name not be used, news of Project Marie came as a relief.

The mother of two, who’s lived across the street from Marie Curtis for more than four years, said she often frequents the park with her three-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son – but it was only recently that she had her first “alarming” confrontation in the park.

“It was the first nice day of spring this May and I was just walking with my son on the (shared pedestrian/cyclist) path close to the lake on the Mississauga side,” she said in an interview with the Etobicoke Guardian on Saturday.

“Then all of a sudden out of the bushes comes this man completely naked – as naked as the day he was born – holding what looked like a pair of underwear, and he literally just sauntered across the path as if this was the most normal thing.”

The man, with whom she made eye contact, neither spoke to her nor made any threatening move to approach her, but Diana said she was still left shaken by the encounter.

“It was quite alarming to me, because I was there by myself and he was quite a big guy,” she said, noting that she quickly left the area and reported the incident to police.

Not everyone in attendance at Saturday’s Walk the Beat event, however, was supportive of local police’s efforts through Project Marie.

Mikiki, who doesn’t use a last name, was one of several concerned members of the LGBT community in Toronto who organized a Facebook group called ‘Queers Crash the Beat’ to host a peaceful protest at Marie Curtis Park to coincide with Saturday’s Walk the Beat event.

“Undercover sting operations are usually reserved for the most serious or heinous of crimes. When we see that the tickets issued (for Project Marie) are mostly for bylaw infractions, yet we have this level or organization and expenditure happening, it really does seem unbalanced,” Mikiki said.

“..They say it’s not targeted towards gay men, but when all the people that are charged are men who are having sex with men, it makes the gay community feel like we’ve been targeted.”

The purpose of the protest, he added, was fourfold:

- to call for an end to Toronto Police Services’ “wild and inflammatory rhetoric” about the nature of the Project Marie arrests;

- to call on the LGBTQ2 community to offer “support and understanding” for the men arrested in Project Marie, and ask them to come together to demand that Toronto Police Services cease and desist Project Marie and any similar undercover sting operations in the future.

- to call on Police Chief Mark Saunders to publicly condemn Project Marie, to clarify who at Toronto Polices Services gave the go-ahead for the operation, and to reveal the total costs associated with it.

- and, lastly, to call on Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to intervene and withdraw all charges facing the individuals charged as a result of Project Marie, and to expunge those individuals’ records.

Etobicoke-Lake Councillor Mark Grimes called that criticism of Project Marie “misinformed.”

“They think it was an uncover sting operation, but that’s totally incorrect,” Grimes said. “We had an educational component to it, when officers were down here in uniform for a couple weeks, then charges were laid. “So that’s not what it’s about – it’s about stopping the lewd behaviour in our park and that’s all it’s about.”

Const. Ward, too, was quick to defend Project Marie, saying that, first and foremost, it is not a homophobic campaign at all.

“It’s regrettable that it has been portrayed as such. At the end of the day, this is a public space, this is a public park for families and children to enjoy – not a playground for adults to engage in sexual behaviour – and that is the point that seems to be forgotten in a lot of this,” he said.

“No person should ever be worried about being approached for sex in a park, they should never have to worry about fighting off people that are coming and physically grabbing them, or aggressively soliciting them for sexual behaviour. It’s just not something that should ever be a factor, and unfortunately in many cases it has been.”

“Regardless of whether it’s a male and female or two males engaged in the behaviour, it’s not appropriate and it would be dealt with in the same way,” he added.

Despite the controversy surrounding it, local residents like Diana, too, remain supportive of Project Marie and its efforts to put a stop to public sex in their neighbourhood park.

“I don’t really buy into this theory that it’s discriminatory...and I don’t think it can be compared to the Bathhouse Raids or anything else like that, because it’s a totally different thing,” Diana said.

“This is a public park, and whether you’re straight or gay, it’s against the law to have sex in a public space...If my husband and I decided to do that, we would get persecuted too, right? There’s no loophole in the law, regardless of who you are, to be able to do something like that.”

Walk the Beat sees community, police come together to 'take back' Marie Curtis Park

Event is culmination of Project Marie police operation aimed at cracking down on ‘lewd’ behaviour in the park

News Nov 19, 2016 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

Both supporters and detractors of 22 Division’s Project Marie in Marie Curtis Park braved the cold and rainy weather this weekend to have their voices heard at the Etobicoke waterfront park.

According to Const. Kevin Ward of 22 Division’s Community Response Unit, Saturday afternoon’s Walk the Beat event was organized as the culmination of the two-month police operation aimed at cracking down on ‘lewd’ behaviour at the park that straddles the Mississauga border.

“We’re trying to get the community involved to actively use the park, to feel safe in the park and to deter some of the other illegitimate activities that are taking place here,” Ward said of Saturday’s event, which included a barbecue, park clean-up, and candle light walk through the park at dusk with officers from both the Toronto and Peel Region police services.

In total, Ward said 89 charges have been laid against 78 people over the course of Project Marie. Of those charges, only one was criminal, while the other 88 were bylaw and Provincial Offences Act charges: 71 for lewd behaviour, 13 for being in the park after hours, three for trespassing and one in relation to the Liquor Licence Act.

For local residents like Diana, who asked that her last name not be used, news of Project Marie came as a relief.

The mother of two, who’s lived across the street from Marie Curtis for more than four years, said she often frequents the park with her three-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son – but it was only recently that she had her first “alarming” confrontation in the park.

“It was the first nice day of spring this May and I was just walking with my son on the (shared pedestrian/cyclist) path close to the lake on the Mississauga side,” she said in an interview with the Etobicoke Guardian on Saturday.

“Then all of a sudden out of the bushes comes this man completely naked – as naked as the day he was born – holding what looked like a pair of underwear, and he literally just sauntered across the path as if this was the most normal thing.”

The man, with whom she made eye contact, neither spoke to her nor made any threatening move to approach her, but Diana said she was still left shaken by the encounter.

“It was quite alarming to me, because I was there by myself and he was quite a big guy,” she said, noting that she quickly left the area and reported the incident to police.

Not everyone in attendance at Saturday’s Walk the Beat event, however, was supportive of local police’s efforts through Project Marie.

Mikiki, who doesn’t use a last name, was one of several concerned members of the LGBT community in Toronto who organized a Facebook group called ‘Queers Crash the Beat’ to host a peaceful protest at Marie Curtis Park to coincide with Saturday’s Walk the Beat event.

“Undercover sting operations are usually reserved for the most serious or heinous of crimes. When we see that the tickets issued (for Project Marie) are mostly for bylaw infractions, yet we have this level or organization and expenditure happening, it really does seem unbalanced,” Mikiki said.

“..They say it’s not targeted towards gay men, but when all the people that are charged are men who are having sex with men, it makes the gay community feel like we’ve been targeted.”

The purpose of the protest, he added, was fourfold:

- to call for an end to Toronto Police Services’ “wild and inflammatory rhetoric” about the nature of the Project Marie arrests;

- to call on the LGBTQ2 community to offer “support and understanding” for the men arrested in Project Marie, and ask them to come together to demand that Toronto Police Services cease and desist Project Marie and any similar undercover sting operations in the future.

- to call on Police Chief Mark Saunders to publicly condemn Project Marie, to clarify who at Toronto Polices Services gave the go-ahead for the operation, and to reveal the total costs associated with it.

- and, lastly, to call on Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to intervene and withdraw all charges facing the individuals charged as a result of Project Marie, and to expunge those individuals’ records.

Etobicoke-Lake Councillor Mark Grimes called that criticism of Project Marie “misinformed.”

“They think it was an uncover sting operation, but that’s totally incorrect,” Grimes said. “We had an educational component to it, when officers were down here in uniform for a couple weeks, then charges were laid. “So that’s not what it’s about – it’s about stopping the lewd behaviour in our park and that’s all it’s about.”

Const. Ward, too, was quick to defend Project Marie, saying that, first and foremost, it is not a homophobic campaign at all.

“It’s regrettable that it has been portrayed as such. At the end of the day, this is a public space, this is a public park for families and children to enjoy – not a playground for adults to engage in sexual behaviour – and that is the point that seems to be forgotten in a lot of this,” he said.

“No person should ever be worried about being approached for sex in a park, they should never have to worry about fighting off people that are coming and physically grabbing them, or aggressively soliciting them for sexual behaviour. It’s just not something that should ever be a factor, and unfortunately in many cases it has been.”

“Regardless of whether it’s a male and female or two males engaged in the behaviour, it’s not appropriate and it would be dealt with in the same way,” he added.

Despite the controversy surrounding it, local residents like Diana, too, remain supportive of Project Marie and its efforts to put a stop to public sex in their neighbourhood park.

“I don’t really buy into this theory that it’s discriminatory...and I don’t think it can be compared to the Bathhouse Raids or anything else like that, because it’s a totally different thing,” Diana said.

“This is a public park, and whether you’re straight or gay, it’s against the law to have sex in a public space...If my husband and I decided to do that, we would get persecuted too, right? There’s no loophole in the law, regardless of who you are, to be able to do something like that.”