[URBAN NOTE] “Marie Curtis Park becomes centre point of debate about public space”
The Toronto Star‘s Raju Mudhar talks about the conflicting conceptions of public space at Marie Curtis Park, between long-time and more recent users of the park space.
If you had no idea of the recent news, the two gatherings at Marie Curtis Park in Etobicoke would have just looked like a bunch of people out to enjoy the green space.
There were actually diametrically opposed groups brought to the park by their feelings about ‘Project Marie,’ a recent police operation held in the park where over a three-week period, plain clothes officers cited 78 people with 89 charges, the majority of which were bylaw infractions including 71 lewd behaviour tickets, as well as one criminal charge.
On Saturday, area residents and community police officers from 22 Division were engaging residents as part of its Walk the Beat initiative, in an effort to step up community enforcement and build a better relationship.
About 30 feet away, members of the LGBTQ community held a counter protest called Queers Crash the Beat, expressing their disgust with what they feel was a large scale police investigation with homophobic undertones that they feel targeted a marginalized community.
“It’s not just men engaging in sex in the park, there have been a couple of sex offenders, there is drinking and there have been drugs, so we’re dealing with all of those issues,” said Const. Kevin Ward, of 22 Division’s Community Response Unit. “Part of the issue is that the LGBTQ community feels that we have lumped everybody in the same category as the sex offender, which is not at all the case … Our main reason for saying these things was to highlight some of the issues in the park, because it is a multi-faceted issue.”