On February 5, 1981, 286 men were arrested in a series of raids on Toronto area bathhouses, the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis, sparking outrage in the Gay and Lesbian community.
At approximately 11 p.m. on the night of February 5, Police raided four bathhouses: Club Baths, Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, Richmond Street Health Emporium and the Barracks. The owners were charged with 'keeping a common bawdy-house', and 286 occupants were arrested.
On the night following the raids, several thousand protestors took to downtown streets, blockading a number of intersections. Over the next month, several other demonstrations took place, which culminated in a 'Gay Freedom Rally'' on March 6. This included the involvement of Rev. Brent Hawkes (who had gone on a hunger strike), MP Svend Robinson and noted author Margaret Atwood. Hawkes ended his hunger strike with a promise from the City to launch an investigation into the raids.
The Richmond Street Health Emporium never opened again.
The rally of March 6 was effectively the first street incarnation of what has become known as Toronto Pride Week, Pride week is one of the largest Gay Pride events in the world, with over one million participants annually.
Womens Bathhouse Raids
On September 14, 2000, an Womens bathhouse event, the Pussy Palace, was crashed by an all-male squad of the Toronto Police. No arrests or charges were laid at the time, although the Police recorded the names of ten women (mostly organizers of the event) and spent one hour roaming around watching the 300 attendees. The officers were never disciplined.
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