3 min

Montreal’s historic Sex Garage raid in photos

Photographer Linda Dawn Hammond captured the infamous police raid and love-in

Linda Dawn Hammond’s photos capture Montreal’s infamous police raid on a gay party in 1990 and its irrevocable impact on the city’s gay community. Read our feature on the raid and its impact here.

Hammond’s photos will be exhibited at the Sex Garage 25th Anniversary exhibition in Montreal, Aug 1216, 2015. Read our interview with Hammond here.

Go-go dancers (L-R) Strictly Tricky Nicky and Vava Vol on the table at Sex Garage, prior to police attack on July 15, 1990.

(L-R) Michelle “Mitchy” and Wendy Stephens. A happier time for Wendy, who was oblivious to what was to later follow. She is the woman who was repeatedly pushed to her knees and beaten by the police, hitting her face on the ground.  

Two men dancing at the Sex Garage party prior to the police attack.

Magalis Garcia exits the Sex Garage warehouse party, running past the police holding batons and facing the exit. 

An estimated 40 police advance in battalion formation toward partygoers they have corralled near La Gauchetiere and Beaver Hall Hill, blocking people from accessing their cars and bicycles. At this point they still wear their identification badges.

Having expelled people from the party, the police then pointedly removed their identification badges in front of us — signalling an imminent police attack. Only their apparent leader, who was directing them, retained his. Prior to the photo, Wendy Stephens attempted to run away from them. In this photo, they have hit Wendy to the ground, while Domenic (right) confronts them angrily. One sadistic policeman whispered repeatedly in her ear, “Get Up! Run!” only to trip her feet with his baton.  

The police are piled on top of one man and hitting him, while their “leader” directs them with a megaphone. A woman is on her knees facing them, a baton to her head, while her girlfriend looks on. A policeman on the left is looking at me with interest, his attention sparked by the flash. This was my last photo, before a police officer came up to me from behind, hitting me in the back of my knees so they buckled and I fell forward. Then a cop aimed a baton toward my hands holding the camera and flash. I managed to pivot in the opposite direction as I fell and found myself on my stomach facing the running crowd. I threw my Nikon up the hill, shouting, “Grab the camera! Run!” at no one in particular, but hopefully not the cops. As I did, my Vivitar 285, which had been dislodged by the blow, flew in the direction of the gutter. Witnesses told me that the police left the man they had been beating and jumped on the large flash, perhaps believing it to be the camera, which I assume they were after. I waited for the impact of cops, but fortunately they were occupied with my flash, so I scrambled to my feet and ran in the direction of my camera — which had been retrieved by a fellow journalist.

The Love-In in front of Station 25

Arriving at the Love-In, Tara (left) plants a kiss on her friend, Wendy Stephen’s cheek (right), whose face is scraped from the police attack at the Sex Garage party. 

Two men make out on top of a police poster, in front of the police station which had sent many of the officers which attacked the Sex Garage party. Firemen stand in the doorway of an adjacent fire station and appear amused. 

A large crowd of 250 protesters sit down in front of the police station, chanting, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous!” and “We’re Here. We’re Queer. And so are some of YOU!”

Two bearded men embrace in a large crowd of 250 protesters. I linked an arm with one of them when we were attacked again by the police, this time in broad daylight in front of the assembled media and mostly horrified onlookers. In total, 48 of us were beaten, dragged and arrested, with six charges laid. 

A message circulated through the crowd that we were going to be attacked by the police, who detailed their strategy if we offered any resistance. They put on riot helmets, body armour, and held batons while wearing latex gloves in case we had AIDS — a relatively new fear in 1990. A palpable fear swept through the protesters. This was my last photo of this event, as I handed my Nikon to a friend for safekeeping and prepared for what was to come. One of the police gave a signal and they advanced, beating us and dragging people off, row by row. I was in the third row and saw the first two go down. When they arrived at us, I chose not to look.