Thunder Bay police have charged five people in a gaybashing case that caused community members to organize a massive rally against violence. One of those charged is the gay man at the centre of the incident.
Jake Raynard, who sustained head injuries after an assault outside Thunder Bay’s gay-friendly bar on Sep 5, has been charged with one count of assault and two counts of assault with a weapon. Four young men, ranging in age from 16 to 18, are also facing charges.
“I’m taking the weekend to look over the evidence that’s been levelled against me,” says Raynard, who returned to work last week. “I want to make sure I don’t misstep. I obviously want the court case to go well.”
Raynard refuses to say if he will plead guilty or innocent when he makes his court appearance on Dec 2. He says he will meet with his lawyer on Monday.
“I was pretty shocked,” says Ellen Picard Chambers, who spoke on behalf of Egale at the September rally. “The community that knows [Raynard] certainly didn’t see this coming.”
Picard Chambers believes the attack involving Raynard was a hate crime. So does Michael Sobota, who is helping to organize an anti-violence group with Raynard called Unity in our Community.
But the police say they don’t believe a hate crime took place on the night of the attack. “There were insulting remarks made by several parties that were involved in this incident,” Bob Herman, Thunder Bay’s police chief, told local media. “The remarks were insulting in nature and certainly shouldn’t have been made. But they weren’t the motivating factor that led up to the assaults. So in the absence of that, we can’t classify this as a hate-motivated crime.”
“I’m angry that they’re saying insults don’t amount to anything,” says Sobota. “Obviously they do.” He feels Raynard has a good case for self-defence. “If you’re being chased by more people than you and being called a fairie or a fag, I would defend myself, too,” says Sobota.
The weapons that were allegedly used by both sides in the Sep 5 incident were bricks. But Sobota says Raynard only threw them to defend himself.
Two of the young men facing charges are still at large. Warrants have been issued for their arrests.