The ArQuives Digital Exhibitions

The ArQuives's Digital Exhibitions

Explore highlights from The ArQuives’s collections of personal and organizational papers, artifacts, ephemera and more!

GATE and Operation Jack O'Lantern

The queer community believed that the only way to stop this violence was to organize against it and to show the strength of the community.

This led to GATE forming Operation Jack O’Lantern, which was one of the many responses by the queer community to resist against violence. Four teams of about ten men and women patrolled the area, each with a lawyer and a first-aid person. They monitored police activity pointing out to police officers where they should be intervening.

“Obviously gay” individuals were accompanied from bar to bar, successfully warding off two attacks by queerbashers in the first year of its implementation (GATE, c. 1979).

A street patrol run by Bob Gallagher from the “Right to Privacy Committee” also supplemented the police presence. This group patrolled back alleys and had radio access to police (Hannon, 1981).

The University of Toronto Homophile Association (UTHA) would hand out leaflets to onlookers in an effort to educate the general public on homosexuality. Jerald Moldenhauer, the founder of UTHA, believed that by doing this, it would make non-drag queer people more visible and would get people to think more about the issues surrounding sexual identity.

Unfortunately, Moldenhauer felt that his efforts were relatively unsuccessful, as there was “ten to fifteen of us versus several thousand of them. (Parkes, 2000, p. 37)” Molenhauer was inaccurate in his belief that his efforts were for naught, and Gerald Hannon reports in The Body Politic that by 1981, efforts by the police and queer community had finally managed to prevent the homophobic, violent crowds of past Halloweens.This was an improvement from the previous year even, when similar crowd diffusing strategies were used (1981).

You can see that the events became more peaceful as years went on. In 1979, there were 130 arrests. In 1980, only 13 arrests. And in 1980, due to successful intervention, nobody was arrested for violent behaviour outside the St. Charles (Hannon, 1981).

In 1980, police had finally taken some initiative to open queer/police dialogue on the issue at hand with police officer Arnold Bruner acting as liaison between the two communities. Bruner made a protocol for gay/police relations called the “Bruner Report”, which was made in response to a hunger strike initiated by Brent Hawkes (Dubro, 2016). They even went so far to visit the headquarters of The Body Politic to inquire whether there were any suggestions or criticisms of police actions on Halloween (Hannon, 1981).

GATE and Operation Jack O'Lantern