A rally to mark The International Day Against Homophobia at Halifax City Hall, May 17, took on special meaning after two men were murdered in the area in the weeks preceding the event.
“The irony is that there was such a turnout,” says organizer Hugo Dann. “If it had just been a demonstration against homophobia the turnout would not have been so good.”
About 300 people attended, including several politicians and Halifax police officials.
Dann, who spoke with dozens of reporters during the media frenzy surrounding the murders, says most mainstream news organizations “really blew it” in their coverage of the killings.
“They kept asking me, ‘What about these risky behaviours?'” says Dann. “That was always their focus; gays cruising and the murders rather than homophobia. Getting them to talk about homophobia was like pushing a rock up a hill.”
Dann also points to various reports in the mainstream press that said police warned people to stay away from Halifax-area cruising areas while they searched for a suspect.
“The advisory wasn’t to stay away from cruising areas,” explains Dann. “It was to exercise caution. It was to be aware that these murders had happened.”
Xtra asked spokespeople from both the RCMP and the Halifax Regional Police about the warnings. Neither said cruising areas ought to be avoided.
Michael Knott was reported missing May 2. His body was found by an ATV rider in a wooded area near Mill Cove — about a 100-kilometre drive from Halifax — May 5.
Police did not release details about the cause of his death, but Knott’s car was found by an RCMP officer near Halifax Stanfield International Airport, May 7. Forensic investigators are examining the car.
Trevor Brewster was reported missing May 8. His body was discovered stuffed under a boardwalk at Frenchman’s Lake in Dartmouth, May 9. Investigators say his body had been there for several days. As Xtra goes to press, police are still looking for Brewster’s missing car, a black two-door Honda Civic.
“Both victims were gay men who were known to frequent cruising areas in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM),” Deputy Chief Chris McNeil of the Halifax Regional Police said during a May 11 news conference. “We are issuing a public advisory for potential safety concerns in cruising areas in the HRM,” he added.
Sources in the queer community in Halifax told Xtra that popular cruising areas were as busy as usual, if not more so, during the police-issued advisory.
Glen Race, a Nova Scotia man with a history of mental illness, was apprehended by a US Border Patrol agent near the Mexican border at Brownsville Texas, May 15. At the time of his arrest Race was carrying a rifle and the personal possessions of Darcy Manor. Manor’s dead body was found in upstate New York near the Canadian border May 10, and his vehicle was found a short distance from where Race was apprehended.
“Investigators have determined that Race travelled out of Nova Scotia in Mr Brewster’s vehicle through New Brunswick into Quebec, where it is believed he crossed the boarder into upstate New York,” said deputy chief Chris McNeil, of the Halifax Regional Police at a May 16 news conference.
Race has been charged in Halifax with second-degree murder in connection with Knott’s killing and first-degree murder in connection with Brewster’s killing.
“Certainly there is some relief that there have been developments in the case and people are happy to see that the police have lifted the warning,” says Kevin Kindred of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project. “At the same time, recent events gave us the opportunity to think about violence against our community.”
Kindred says the police consulted his group before issuing the cruising advisory. “We knew they would be going public with it, and we appreciate that they sought input from us as the best way to get that message out,” he says. “They were looking out for the safety of the community.”
At the time of publication, Race remains in custody in Texas. He will likely be extradited to New York where he will face charges related to Manor’s killing. Although Canadian authorities will have access to Race for the purposes of their investigation, Race will not be extradited to Canada until after the justice system in New York is done with him, a process that could take years.