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Crowds rally for unity in Toronto as anti-LGBTQ group protests for free speech

Last Updated Sep 28, 2019 at 6:01 pm EDT

The Mayor of Toronto attended a rally promoting unity Saturday in response to an anti-LGBTQ Christian group’s plans to march through the city’s gay village.

The 519, an LGBTQ charity in Toronto, organized what it described as an “Army of Lovers” to combat the anti-queer protesters, who call themselves Christian free-speech advocates.

John Tory said that while it was hard legally to stop the march by the Christian group, he wanted to show the city was against it. The group attempted to march up Church Street, but were unable to so they moved to Yonge Street.

“When there is a threat, when there are people our promoting division and polarization and stigmatization against the LGBTQ community or anybody else, i think it’s my job to stand up and say no, that’s not the way we live here, that’s not what we’re about in Toronto,” said Tory.

Yonge was blocked near King Street by the march for several hours until police officers allowed them to continue walking up. They were briefly stopped again at Adelaide Street by a group holding a “Toronto Against Facism” sign. The Christian group describes itself as a free-speech advocate, arguing “traditionalists” have to walk on eggshells in today’s society.

Tory said the police were on-hand to try to prevent confrontations.

The LGBTQ community says the group is anti-gay, while the group argues that it merely disagrees with “many of the lifestyle choices of the LGBT community.”

Tory said it was important to show opposition to the group and fight to maintain the sense of inclusion in the city.

“It’s fragile you know, human rights are fragile, the kind of respect we’ve built up here is fragile in a certain way,” said Tory.

“Every single time there’s somebody who wants to threaten the sense of inclusion, the sense of support, the sense of embracing, the sense of unity that we’re trying to bring about in this, the most diverse city in the world, that you stand up and say no.”