1 min

20th anniversary of Montreal’s Sex Garage raid

In July 1990, relations between Montreal police and the queer community hit a low point

In July 1990, relations between Montreal police and the queer community hit a low point after a brutal clampdown on the after-hours Sex Garage party. The events “politicized an entire generation of queer activists,” wrote Richard Burnett in a recent column for Xtra.  

(Sex Garage © Linda Dawn Hammond / IndyFoto.com ‘90)

An excerpt from Burnett’s column:

"… 400 partygoers — mostly gay men, lesbians and drag queens — filed outside like they were told. Some drag queens climbed out the windows and crawled across century-old rooftops to avoid the cops. They were used to it, too. After all, Montreal police had been raiding and harassing gay spaces for decades, only this time no one was going home: Outside stood 16 police cruisers and 40 officers wielding billy clubs.

What no one knew, though, was that history would be made on this morning, at 4am, Jul 16, 1990, and it all began when the cops took off their name tags.

"We were scared when the police got into battalion formation because we knew then that we were going to be beaten,” said Montreal photographer Linda Dawn Hammond, now based in Toronto. …

Nine badly bruised partygoers were arrested and charged with everything from mischief to assaulting a police officer. Hammond’s negatives survived, and her photos made it onto the pages of The Gazette and La Presse the next day. But it took the shocking images of police brutality during peaceful protests over the next two days, however, to finally and irrevocably shake three million Montrealers out of their complacency."

Read Burnett’s full piece on the raid, protests and the fallout, featuring photos by Linda Dawn Hammond.

SexGarage1990 on YouTube has uploaded archival news footage of the post-raid protests.