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Threats made against 2SLGBTQ+ group at Edmonton’s Pride Corner

Click to play video: 'Pride Corner on Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard'
Pride Corner on Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard
WATCH (Aug. 11, 2021): Every Friday, a large group of LGBTQ community members and allies gather at the corner of Whyte Ave. and Gateway Blvd., waving Pride flags and carrying signs as part of a counter protest against long-time street preachers who broadcast their views against the community. Two of the movement's organizers, Erica Posteraro and Claire Pearen explain. – Aug 11, 2021

Charges have been laid and a hate crimes investigation has been launched after several threats were made against members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community at Pride Corner on Edmonton’s Whyte Ave.

On Friday, Sept. 2 at about 7:35 p.m., police officers responded to the report of a weapons complaint near 82 Avenue and 104 Street.

“It was reported to police that a male approached a 2SLGBTQ+ group gathered near the intersection and began yelling at them and threatening them with a bat,” EPS said Friday.

“He then reportedly walked away. Officers located him moments later in the area of Gateway Boulevard and 82 Avenue and took him into custody.”

Cody Lee McDonald, 32, was charged with possession of a weapon dangerous to the public and uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm.

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Then, on Friday, Sept. 9 at about 6:30 p.m., officers received a report of an online threat made against members of the 2SLGBTQ+ group gathering in the area of 104 Street and 82 Avenue.

“As a safety measure, event attendees departed the area on their own and met officers at a different location. The threats remain under investigation at this time,” an EPS spokesperson told Global News on Friday.

In fact, the EPS Hate Crimes & Violent Extremism Unit has been consulted on both investigations. The unit will be meeting with Pride Corner organizers early next week “to discuss how police can work with organizers to make Pride Corner a safer space.”

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In a statement Sept. 16, Pride Corner organizers said this is the first time in 18 months they’ve had to shut down early due to a threat of violence.

Organizers described it as “a serious online threat of gun violence towards attendees of the corner.”

They contacted police, left the area and escorted youth attending the protest safely away.

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“Pride Corner Whyte is experiencing an influx of hate, aggression, and harassment relating to the visibility of 2SLGBTQIA+ people in public spaces and online,” the statement continued.

“More recently, a middle-aged man stood near a PCW protest with a bat, threatening to beat attendees because of their gender and sexuality.”

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Organizers say these incidents used to be isolated but are now more common.

“We will not shrink into the background because of hatred, and we will not dull our light to maintain the status quo,” organizing team member Erica Posteraro said.

“We will not allow religious extremists and homophobic bigots to bully us into submission and a place of fear.”

Organizers are working with other groups and activists on the most effective safety and security measures. The group said it will also ask nearby businesses for help in terms of security protocol and installing a camera at the corner.

Members encouraged community members, allies and supporters to keep showing up “to spread love, promote acceptance… and denounce hate” every Friday at Pride Corner.

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On Sept. 16, several organizers were at the usual gathering place to direct community members to a temporary undisclosed location.

“Tonight, following Friday, after everything, we decided to move the location of Pride Corner to an undisclosed place for people to still come together,” Posteraro said.

“We’re still a vibrant, strong community. This isn’t going to dissuade us from gathering and being out in the public sphere because we deserve to be as safe as everyone else.”

She said community members can gather together and even speak to a therapist about the threats.

“That was obviously… quite scary for everyone here.”

Posteraro said the decision to move this Friday’s counter-protest wasn’t easy.

“It’s been super hard to feel like we’ve been forced into an area of fear. We’re trying really hard not to operate from a place of fear. We’re trying to come at this with rationale, just critical thought on how we can move forward.

“It wasn’t a decision made lightly, but we knew that it was one we had to do until we get our footing with all this. We’re always going to put the greater safety first. But we want to make it known this isn’t us retreating. We’re not going anywhere. We have permanent signage in Edmonton now,” she said.

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“This isn’t going to dissuade us. If anything, it just strengthens our resolve. This is why we need Pride Corner. This is why we gather and build community… because there are people who literally try to stamp out our existence.

She said the support and encouragement has far outweighed the negative responses.

“We have had countless people on our socials and in person say how much safer they feel on this corner because we’re here.”

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