THE PARKSIDE CAMPAIGN
An article by Charlie, GUERILLA, JANUARY, 1972: on the CHAT/TGA Parkside campaign
Charlie was a much better writer than me. I wish he'd done more of it.
Let's face it, it just wasn't the happiest of times for Pat, the sad-faced manager of the Parkside Tavern at 530 Yonge St. After many happy lucrative years of riding herd on the Parkside's pet swarm of faggots, the nasty ungrateful gearboxes had suddenly taken to biting the hand that was feeding them. If one stops to consider for a moment what they are forced to swallow, the only surprising thing is that they didn't start biting back years ago.
The Parkside is a typically sad 'gay' bar. The patrons are treated with contempt by the management; the waiters are polite as long as they get tips. The floors are cleaned once a week whether they need it or not, the tables are rarely cleaned and ashtrays are usually dumped on the floors by the waiters. If a beer glass is broken on the floor it lays there until closing time. The washrooms are dirty, and the upstairs washroom is open to the beverage room, with people urinating in full sight of the patrons. Pat once told a person who was selling The Body Politic, a Gay Liberation newspaper, that "you people are lucky to have a place."
On Thursday, Jan. 20, and again on Saturday night, people from Toronto Gay Action began leafletting in front of the Parkside Tavern. The leaflets protested the fact that morality squad plainclothesmen are more or less permanently ensconced in the men's washroom, peering through holes in the ventilators, waiting to nab people in the act of performing sexual acts in public. On both occasions the police were called to remove the leafletters from the sidewalk as they were bad for business, and both times the police refused to take any action.
On Saturday night, when Pat saw that the police were not going to prevent leafletting, he came outside to protest. He demanded to plead the case of the Parkside Tavern, and invited everyone involved into his miniscule office for a confab. So two immaculately polite and totally embarrassed police officers, four angry Gay Liberationists and one blustering red-faced and red-necked tavern manager jammed themselves into a 5x5 room for an impromptu consciousness-raising session.
Pat steadfastly maintained that the morality squad had not been called in "because of homosexuals", but to prevent vandalism. There had been so much vandalism in the washroom, he said, that the police were placed in an adjacent room to look through a hole in the wall to catch the vandals. When it was discovered that homosexual acts were taking place, the vandals were forgotten and the sex offenders became the prime reason for the surveillance.
The position of the Gay Libbers was that the surveillance is an invasion of personal privacy, and that it has in no way prevented any public sex from taking place. The fact that at least ten people have been arrested in the downstairs washroom of the Parkside since the beginning of this year makes it clear that people are not being deterred. The TGAers maintained that if the Parkside and the police truly wanted to prevent criminal acts, a uniformed officer or security guard could be placed in the washroom. The police officers maintained that the Toronto Police Department is so short of men that it would be impossible to assign a uniformed officer just to police the washroom of one private establishment, but they were unable to explain why it is that the Police Department can, with such a shortage of officers, allot two plainclothesmen there. Besides, they said, uniformed officers are not supposed to be stationed permanently in licensed premises in Toronto. They agreed that it would be a good idea to post warning signs in the washrooms. Pat claimed that there had been signs, but the famous vandals had torn them down. He ignored the suggestion that signs which are painted on the wall cannot be torn down.
The conversation turned to other matters of mutual interest, such as police entrapment of gays in public parks, general harrassment of gays on the streets and harrassment of street sellers of Gay Liberation newspapers and Guerilla vendors. The police tacitly agreed with most of the arguments of the gays, much to the discomfort of Pat, who kept repeating his theory of the morality squad and vandals.
It should be noted that during this conference, which lasted nearly half an hour, the Parkside was literally crawling with cops. The door to the office was thrown open about once a minute by various uniformed and plainclothesmen making sure no doubt, that their buddies weren't being sexually molested. One also announced that a bomb had been reported, so Pat went running out while visions of crashing profits danced through his head.
The two PCs were almost a treat to talk to. They talked on a friendly `man-to-man' level, and the condescension was kept to a tolerable minimum. One PC indulgently assured us that homosexuals couldn't help being that way because they all had something happen to them during their formative years. When the hoots of laughter died down, he apologised, and agreed that maybe gays were more qualified to speak on the subject.
The two PCs arranged a meeting with 52 Division's Community Relations Officer, evidently a position recently created to attempt to resuscitate the Police Department's dying public image. Although from past experience Gay Lib has learned that such meetings invariably end with pigeonholed reports, ignored suggestions and polite blank walls, it was decided to try again. The outcome of that meeting, if any, will be reported in Guerilla.
As the group trooped out of the office full of rare optimism, the morality squad acted right on cue, and frog-marched a white-faced kid past them and out into the street. Much howling, screaming and finger-pointing ensued, and although the kid's name was obtained, the scruffily dressed and unshaven cop snarled that if everyone didn't fuck off immediately the group would be under arrest. After phoning lawyers and everyone else they could think of, the people went their separate ways, the optimism having long since vanished.
The bomb? Unfortunately it was a false alarm.
The following is the text of the leaflet which was produced by Toronto Gay Action and handed out at the Parkside Tavern this past week.
Toronto Gay Action meets every second Sunday at 8:00 pm at 58 Cecil St., one block south of College off Spadina. The next meeting is Jan. 30th.
Caution, Police Spies At Work
Every time you use the downstairs washroom of the Parkside Tavern, you are being spied upon.
Police are stationed, out of sight, behind the air vent in the washroom, where they watch everyone who goes in and out.
Every week since the beginning of this year, there have been arrests in the downstairs washroom of the Parkside. There is good reason to believe that some of the people arrested were not guilty of any crime, that they were being propositioned against their will. However, in the eyes of the police, actual participation in a criminal act is not a necessary grounds for arrest. If you are merely caught in a compromising situation, you are guilty.
The owners of the Parkside Tavern and the police have both been asked to post signs in the washroom stating that public sexual acts are punishable and that police are watching the room. However, they have refused! Neither the owners of the Parkside nor the police are interested in preventing crime; they merely wish to harass and persecute gays.
Even if you are not gay, even if you object strongly to washroom sex, the police spying in the Parkside washroom represents an unjustifiable invasion of your privacy.
What can you do about it?
1) (MOST IMPORTANT) STAY OUT OF THE DOWNSTAIRS WASHROOM OF THE PARKSIDE.
2) Tell the management and staff of the Parkside that you resent being spied upon.
3) Better still, boycott the Parkside. The owners aren't interested in your welfare, so don't support them.
4) Write the police department to protest harrassment of gays.
Peace and love,
Toronto Gay Action
An article of mine, GUERILLA, FEBRUARY, 1972: more or less on the CHAT/TGA Parkside campaign
January 24, Sunday evening a meeting took place among representatives of CHAT, TGA, THE BODY POLITIC and other interested people to discuss the Parkside situation. It was decided to work on plans for a day-long boycott of the Parkside, tentatively set for a Saturday, in February. It was felt this would give time for both effective planning and for further negotiations requested by the owner of the Parkside.
At the same meeting a few particulars of the ludicrous harassment of gays by the police and the courts were brought out. Many gays are still so conditioned to their treatment by society that the instances have to be pointed out time and time again before they will begin to open their eyes to the situation.
The legitimacy of homosexuality as an acceptable expression of sexuality is denied in this society. It is driven out of the mainstream into backroads like the bars, baths, parks and washrooms. Often a first sexual encounter is sought out here. Many people learn that here they can at least make some sort of contact with someone. Many homosexuals are not into the gay ghetto scene for many reasons: rejection of its oppressiveness, an inability to communicate effectively in English, naivety as to the existence of the scene, fear of being seen among recognizable homosexuals, inability to make it on the gay circuit and on and on. For many people the only avenue open to them is the furtive sex of parks and washrooms. There are gays who do know the bars and do wander through the park and washroom scenes too. Perhaps they came out through these avenues and revert to them, perhaps they find them less cruel than the club scene.
The fact remains that all these sideroads, all this backwash exists as a result of society's rejection of the homosexual, and that individual's consequent need to find below-ground routes by which to communicate and to release a frustrated sexuality. It doesn't take much to sense the anger, turmoil, the frustration which would exist if heterosexuality were declared an illegitimate form.
A situation exists now in which people are forced to make use of certain channels in order to express their sexuality and then are hunted down and preyed upon when they do. They are made to feel unclean and abnormal by the daily tide of propaganda which overwhelms all aspects of this society. They are exploited by the bars and baths and clubs which are the only expressions of their existence this society will allow. They are spat upon by the law. They are severely crippled in any attempt at personal attainment by societal attitudes.
What are the words for a situation in which plainclothes cops deliberately entice people in parks, inviting advances, and then make arrests when those advances are made?
How do you classify a situation in which law enforcement officers hide behind floor-level air vents in subway washrooms for time on end, on their bellies, staring up at the rows of people shitting and pissing, waiting for a homosexual to make a move? If it weren't the truth it would be laughable. It is persecution of the most defenseless gays, the married ones, the closet cases, the ones who stand to lose so much from the publicity if they were to put up a fight, young ones who know no other place, rejected older gays.
What sort of situation is it in which a judge at a trial of a gay for an offence for which two other gays have been convicted, dismisses the evidence of these that the third was in no way involved, and convicts on the grounds that he hasn't faith in the testimony of homosexuals?
Perhaps he can feel so free because the minister of justice in Ontario is a man who has directly perpetuated [?] sarcasm at gays, has publicly called all gays, perverts, and has declared that homosexuals should be "cured" whether they want to be or not. Is the forensic division of the Clarke Institute, which specializes in shock therapy, a part of his plan?
What do you call a situation in which homosexuality is grounds for denying citizenship, and for deportation, Trudeau the great giver of rights, notwithstanding?
And how about a situation in which if a person becomes known as a homosexual they are most liable to be hounded and harassed out of a job, if not fired outright? And if they do hold onto a job, they sure as hell are not in line for many promotions or pay raises.
To overcome this bigotry gays must stand together. If gay people are to fulfill themselves personally and individually they must first meet their collective situation, together. Which brings us back to the Parkside. A meeting was held between Norman Bolter, owner of the Parkside, and George Hislop of CHAT on Thursday, January 27. At that meeting it was agreed that the police trap in the washrooms would be closed up. Mr. Bolter protested that police permission would be necessary but a phone call to the higher levels of the police department has revealed that the hole was put there at the behest of the Parkside. In other words the Parkside which lives off us, has, in order to be cozy with the morality squad, openly and purposely chosen to sacrifice gay people, delivering them to the plainclothes vultures. No other gay bar, no matter how oppressive has found it necessary to stoop that low.
If you wonder why the cops are so eager to make these arrests, consider the fact that they make $9.40 an hour in court time. More importantly, promotions are based on the number of convictions a cop gets and courts have shown themselves very eager to convict gays in these cases.
Under pressure the Parkside has agreed to clean up their washrooms, installing a few doors and partitions. Also they promised to clean up the drinking rooms and see that the staff treat the patrons a little more decently in the future.
I have very little faith in the people who own and run the Parkside. They have a shit record, it stinks. Already Bolter is trying to back out of his promise to close the police hole. He is saying again that the cops won't let him; but there is word from a high level that it can be closed. He is saying that straights are always complaining about being harassed by gays in that washroom. How many straights use the Parkside washroom? Where are those complaints? The Parkside Tavern is one of the few places that doesn't have a floorman to keep things in line. They've got the cops, free of charge. Let them hire a floorman to handle things, like other places.
If the Parkside doesn't keep its promises, doesn't change its attitude, drink somewhere else until it does. Even if that place isn't much better, it also isn't the Parkside. Money is the one thing they understand. Force them to treat us decently, to get rid of the cops, to clean up the place. Our money pays for the place and its time they started doing things differently there.
Just as a footnote, the Parkside's first reaction to our leafletting warning against the spyhole was to refuse service to and evict from the premises, people wearing gay organization buttons.
Also in passing, the August Club is now partly owned by the Parkside. Randy Knight, the Piggy Bassett of the gay world, is now hand in hand with them. If and when you're thinking of going to the August Club, remember the Parkside.