Dozens of counter-protesters rallied at Calgary City Hall on Saturday evening to support the LGBTQ2 community in Calgary in response to a homophobic and transphobic protest the same night.
The protest, which was promoted by a group of conservative Muslims under the Facebook group YYC Muslims, said they are protecting children from “forced LGBTQ indoctrination in schools.” The group also arranged a similar demonstration on last Friday at City Hall.
Large groups of people arrived in front of City Hall on Saturday evening. Counter-protesters could be seen waving various Pride flags and signs supporting the LGBTQ2 community. Protesters were waving Canadian flags and signs telling LGBTQ2 people to “leave children alone,” claiming sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum is used to “groom and sexualize” children.
The area also had a large police presence.
Reanna Teske, a counter-protester, said she is worried about the cultural and language barriers between the two groups. She told Global News the LGBTQ2 community is being misrepresented by the group of conservative Muslims.
“There has been a coordinated movement to protest (LGBTQ2 people) … There have been some rumours spreading about how the LGBTQ2 community is trying to infiltrate schools and take children to groom them,” she said.
“We’re really confused because it sprung up through a Muslim-named group, except behind it is one gentleman who’s very politically motivated.
“We’re really worried that it’s going to speak badly to the Islamic community and the LGBTQ2 community … There’s a misunderstanding of the LGBTQ2 community and what safe schools mean and what our motives are.”
This comes as anti-LGBTQ2 protests and sentiments grew in North America in recent months. Pride organizations across Canada are dealing with threats and increased security concerns as anti-LGBTQ2 protesters have come out to oppose events held by the queer and trans communities year-round.
The Alberta RCMP warned of a spike in hate incidents against the LGBTQ2 community on Friday after two Pride crosswalks were vandalized in Alberta towns in June.
In Calgary, a man was charged in a hate-motivated crime after he allegedly disrupted a Reading with Royalty event in February. Police say behaviour of protesters outside similar events has been getting worse.
Organizers of Chinook Blask postponed some drag performances due to protests planned at the venue in February.
Earlier this year, a protest was held downtown opposing trans people being allowed in the changeroom in public pools that aligns with their gender.
The protests prompted Calgary city council to pass the Safe and Inclusive Access bylaw, which prohibits protests that object to or disapprove of any race, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, age, place of origin, marital or family status, sexual orientation or income source within 100 metres of entrances to a public library or recreation centre.
“I was raised within the LGBTQ2 community … There is none of this nonsense that they’re spreading within the community,” said counter-protester Alexandra Ramsay.
“The whole point of the Pride community is to spread love and awareness and not to discriminate. This is why we’re here today, to counter the hatred the other side is doing.”
— with files from Stephanie Swensrude, 630 CHED.