Homophobic street preachers ousted by West End residents
VANCOUVER -- A small group of self-proclaimed street preachers prompted a backlash from residents of Vancouver’s West End Thursday after a series of homophobic, fundamentalist sermons over a loudspeaker in the heart of the city’s gay village.
Dozens of Vancouver police arrived as outraged passersby and neighbours demanded the men leave for what they denounced as hateful comments.
“Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven," proclaimed the leader of the group, who identified himself as Dorre Love and offered women who confronted him his business card. His Twitter account has his location listed as Toronto.
The comment was recorded by Jacqui Berchall and posted to a Facebook group so members of the community could see his reaction when challenged about his beliefs.
“This event caused anger and concern amongst not only the gays but the straight residents of the neighbourhood as well,” said Birchall.
Love wasn’t alone in his homophobic commentary.
"Though it may seem OK with you to love one another, male with male, female with female, in truth this is not the reason why we've been created," said another preacher, who joined Love and other speakers under a “Ministry of the Word” banner.
“Nowadays in society we've forsaken the normal, natural roles that God has given us – male no longer want to be male and female no longer want to be female and this is an abomination before God; this is counter to nature."
Those comments enraged onlookers, who grew increasingly angry when the men refused to leave. Onlookers described the events to CTV News, submitting videos and witness accounts while several other videos posted to The WestEnders Facebook group documented the incident.
“Why would you come here and preach the fucking system that doesn't accept people from this fucking community? Because you're here to start some shit," said one man in a video taken by Stephen Wahl. “With everything that's going on in the world, you come here now?"
Wahl, who runs the WestEnders page, had heard about the very loud and alarming sermons through the group and wanted to see it for himself.
“It was nice to see the community coming together to challenge those who come into the neighbourhood to preach a message of intolerance to a demographic with a large LGBTQ population,” he said.
JP Grimard was one of the first to call police for help as the conflict escalated.
"I think as the numbers grew, that increased the confidence of people to sort of confront the preachers,” he said. “(The preachers) definitely got more aggressive and that definitely incited the group of counter-protestors.”
Love didn’t seem to mind the conflict and the many people challenging his opinions.
“I’ve been on the news several times, that's not a problem," he said.
When asked why he was preaching homophobia, he replied he was "preaching the truth – there's no such thing as homophobia."
Love has been identified as the man who stormed into a drag queen story-telling event for children in Ottawa in August of last year, ranting about gender norms being disrupted and telling the youngsters they would go to hell if they didn’t believe in Jesus Christ.
He posted several videos to his YouTube channel in recent days, including one titled “Strippers Prostitutes and JESUS.” The video appeared to be filmed in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where Love told listeners he was originally born in Vancouver, and that he’d fallen into drug addiction and hard times himself after his parents became involved with drugs and prostitution.
Love used a lectern and banner that appear the same as those used by David Lynn and the controversial Christ’s Forgiveness Ministry in Toronto, but the group tells CTV News he is former member and no longer affiliated with them.
Love complained to Vancouver police who arrived at the West End conflict that they weren’t protecting him from a hostile crowd, while the crowd complained that the police weren’t ousting people making offensive remarks.
“The purpose of police on scene is to make sure things don’t get criminal,” said Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin when asked whether VPD believed freedom of expression or freedom of religion to supersede gay rights. “That is the case in all protests.”
Ultimately, as residents shouted “pack it up,” several Vancouver police officers encouraged the preachers to do so and they took their placards and walked away from the intersection of Davie and Thurlow to the applause and jeers of the crowd.
Grimard says the community is already making plans to counter the street preachers with a “Disco Task Force” ready to respond to any future sermons with singing and dancing.
"What they fail to realize is we're used to mobilizing fairly quickly in the face of adversity,” he said. “If you look back to the ‘80s, HIV-AIDS, we know how to mobilize.”