A Toronto preacher who was charged with disturbing the peace in the Church-Wellesley Village Tuesday afternoon has been released on bail.
Police said officers were called to Church Street and Wellesley Street East around 5:50 p.m. Tuesday for reports of a demonstration in the area.
In a news release Wednesday, police said that a man in the area was speaking using a megaphone and his messages caused “alarm” in the community and in turn attracted a “large hostile crowd.”
Police also said that the man was using a megaphone to spread his message and was asked to stop by community members a number of times.
Most of the incident appears to have been livestreamed on YouTube by supporters of street preacher David Lynn.
In the nearly two-hour video, Lynn can be seen speaking about Christianity in the area.
He also said comments such as “dispel and remove the kingdom of darkness from this area,” while announcing that he is “coming out as a Christian.” Meanwhile, a large crowd could be seen beginning to gather and yell at Lynn.
The scene became heated before Lynn claimed he was being targeted because he is Christian, saying, “This area is full of bigots.”
A police officer could be seen coming to speak to Lynn and asking him to stop using his microphone and leave the area. Lynn stopped using his microphone, but continued to speak, at which point police moved in and arrested him.
The incident came just hours after Toronto Mayor John Tory and city councillors raised the Pride flag at city hall to kick off Pride month.
Lynn, 39, has since been charged with causing a disturbance and was released on bail following an appearance at the College Park courthouse Wednesday morning. As a part of his bail conditions, he is not allowed to attend Pride events in the city.
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He has not been charged with spreading hate speech.
“I didn’t do anything illegal,” Lynn told reporters after he was released. “I didn’t go there to provoke anybody. We’re part of a Toronto tour, where we’re going all over Toronto … I didn’t know that this was the first day of the Pride month.”
Lynn said not long before speaking at Church and Wellesley streets, he also spoke at Kensington Market and Queen and Sherbourne streets.
“What was hateful was the words said against me and my religion and saying I’m not even welcome there,” he said. “I think every community in Toronto should have the same laws and everyone should be welcome, including Christians as well as the LGBTQI community.”
Rev. Jeff Rock, a Christian preacher in the city’s LGBTQ2 community, spoke to Global News following the arrest.
“For decades, the Church-Wellesley Village has been a safe place for people to come,” he said. “The last thing we need in a safe place is somebody to tell us that we are broken … What we need is a place where we can experience love and belonging.”
Mayor Tory responded to news of the incident Wednesday by stating that free speech has its limits and that Torontonians should avoid becoming politically polarized.
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“I am going to continue fight as hard as I can using whatever tools we have at our disposal to make sure this does not turn into a city of polarized divisive demonstrations and view points,” he said.
— With files from Caryn Lieberman