If a protester’s worth is judged by the violent insanity of their opponents, then the LGBT movement at last night’s Ford Fest achieved a state of excellence.
Donning rainbow garlands and pride flags, a group of five or six protesters from Toronto’s LGBT community arrived at Ford Fest for what they called a ‘Queeruption’. The goal was to make their voices heard against Ford and his homophobia, amid a sea of his supporters. The plan was for some to hold up signs, such as “Ford #1 hater” and “homophobia kills kids”, and for several members of the same sex to publicly display their affection for one another (if ya know what I mean).
As this pair of LGBT protestors ate each other’s faces, a Ford-supporter lined up to meet the mayor nearby yelled out “What do you think this is? The Westboro Baptist Church? You’re not offending anybody.”
Witnessing this interaction, I thought to myself that the onlooker might be right. We’re in Toronto; even the social conservatives ain’t that conservative. They’ve still got Modern Family on their TV sets. Watching two lesbians make out is not a big deal, so the LGBT protest ain’t a big deal either. Well at least that’s what it looked like then.
It’s hard to tell what the catalyst was exactly, but eventually the LGBT protest at Ford Fest went from being a sideshow on the fringes to the primary focus of everyone’s attention, as Ford Nation became more and more incensed by their presence. More and more angry men and women, of all colors and creeds, began hording around the rainbow-clad protestors chanting loudly in support of their mayor. The protestors were speaking out against Rob, so his supporters want to voice their support for Rob as a rebuttal; that’s fair. The entire scene took an ugly turn, however, around the time a woman named Iola arrived guns blazing.
Angry at the protestors’ presence, Iola had a mouth that could not be stopped, and pretty soon, all attention from the news cameras and her fellow Ford-supporters turned to her and her alone. Among the highlights of her LGBT-bashing rant was a reference to World Pride (a recent Toronto event that Ford notoriously avoided) as our very own “Sodom & Gomorrah” and the claim that the “gay agenda” has been brainwashing our children. Here’s an excerpt: “We’re sick of this oppression, it’s hitting our youth. They want us to accept it, embrace it. We’re not gonna embrace the shit! We’re not gonna embrace this immorality! We’re gonna stand up against it, whatever it takes. We’re gonna support Ford for standing up against it, the only politician for doing that. He’s not only good with our money… he’s got morals! That’s the biggest thing.”
More shocking than her own words, however, was the reaction of the crowd around her. High-fives were thrown left, right, and centre, as the ‘voice of the people’ was finally heard. The anger in Iola’s speech was intoxicating to the crowd around the LGBT protestors, as Ford Nation began to look like a Ford Mob. Screaming in their ears, waving the ‘Ford Nation’ flag in their faces, and eventually, grabbing their signs of protest and stomping them out, the animal instincts of Ford Fest had entered full effect. Ron Banerjee of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy allegedly had his hands around a protester’s neck, and one onlooker claims that a punch was thrown. Even the press, which included CTV, CP24, and Sun News, were being heckled by Ford Nation, with one reporter having to deal with a Ford-supporter’s camcorder purposefully placed directly in front of her face as she tried to interview one of the protesters.
Eventually the police arrived to escort the protestors away from the hungry mob, and every press person left the scene with their story. What had just happened became the story. If Ford Nation had left the LGBT protestors alone, their presence would have been inconsequential and meaningless quite frankly. But they didn’t. Ford’s supporters barked and barked, and as a result, the LGBT protest came out on top, with every major newspaper focusing their ‘Ford Fest’ story primarily on them and the frightening homophobic anger that they inspired.
Update (27/07/14): The Ford activist in question is named Iola, and not Lola. The name has been fixed in the post.