3 min

Bartender stops hate crime on Elgin Street

Gavin McIver rescues two youths from would-be attackers

Gavin McIver at the location of the alleged incident on Elgin Street. Credit: Bradley Turcotte

A bartender from a local gay pub is nursing a sore wrist after he claims he stopped a hate crime in progress in the early-morning hours of July 7.

Gavin McIver left Centretown Pub at approximately 3:30am Sunday morning and headed to the McDonald’s on Elgin Street. He says he saw a Honda Civic travelling south on Elgin stop and then make a sharp turn, pulling to the side of the street between the intersections of Cooper and Somerset streets.

Four well-built men emerged from the car and approached two teenaged males, McIver says, adding that the aggressors honed in on the small-in-stature duo like “snipers.” As the quartet exited the vehicle, they began shouting homophobic slurs, including “faggot,” “give him a kiss” and “suck my dick,” McIver alleges.

“They are decent-sized guys and they are going directly for these two individuals on the street,” he says. “That is what really got me going. It looked like an attack.”

McIver says the incident happened so fast he barely had time to process what he was seeing. He says his fight, flight or freeze instinct kicked in, and he quickly chose to fight. He ran toward the men yelling, “You’re all dead.” This got one of the aggressors’ attention, who ran toward him, McIver says.

“This guy is a pretty decent size, big shoulders, got three friends behind him,” McIver says. “I’m terrified. So I’m like, ‘What are my options?’ I’m thinking this in micro-seconds in my brain. I’m not going to stop and have a conversation. I’m going to regain control over all of this.”

McIver punched the potential basher twice in the head, sending him stumbling back to the car. At this point, McIver says, all four retreated, while six other people ran toward the altercation to make sure the youths were okay.

McIver and the intended targets emerged untouched.

“The girls kind of ran up ahead of the guys,” McIver says of the six who offered to help. “They were kind of on a mission. I love that.”

One of the women who descended on the situation pointed out that, although the aggressors had fled back to their car, they stalled a short distance away.

“Then the girl takes a beer bottle — I don’t know where the beer bottle came from, nobody seemed to be drunk — she takes the bottle and says, “You fucking assholes” and whips it towards the car, hits the back windshield and shatters it,” McIver says.

The woman then threw a second beer bottle, which struck one of the assailants on the back of the head, McIver alleges.

McIver did not record the licence plate number of the aggressors’ car.

“As a Monday morning quarterback, you can always say I could have done this or maybe I should have called somebody first. Maybe I should have just called 911 first,” McIver says. “The next day you are thinking about all of this stuff. But in that moment, there was no other option available.”

McIver says “any homosexual” who goes to the Elgin Street McDonald’s late at night will encounter some homophobia from straights who have a few drinks in them, but this was an “anger-fuelled situation.”

“I did what I believed was right at the time. I don’t want to say I feel good about it, but I don’t feel guilty for hitting him. But do I think going out and beating up people who appear to be a threat is a good idea? The answer is a categorical no; it’s not okay to do that. Knowing what I know now, and even then, I’m cool with what happened. But I hate that it actually did happen. I had to do something.”

Xtra canvassed the area, including questioning McDonald’s staff, searching for witnesses. Attempts to locate witnesses have so far been unsuccessful.

McIver does not intend to contact police, and Denis Schryburt, of the Ottawa Police GLBT liaison committee, says there is no record of the incident.