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RCMP targets gay cruisers at Wreck Beach

Officers checking ID, cruisers say

UBC Mounties are stopping motorists and telling them gay men are having “indiscriminate” sex in bushes around the top of a Wreck Beach trail, guys who cruise in the area say.

“Recently, while driving near Pacific Spirit Park by UBC on the road above Wreck Beach, I was pulled over by RCMP,” one gay cruiser told Xtra West on condition of anonymity.

“There were two officers in an unmarked car manning a roadblock. One took my driver’s licence and checked it on their computer while the other warned me: ‘Did you know that this is a gay men’s stroll where they have indiscriminate sex with each other?’

“Really, those were the policeman’s words!”

“Their statements suggest that they are not making an effort to be sensitive, and that they are trying to shame people,” another cruiser told Xtra West in a separate interview.

He too was stopped by police officers near the top of beach trail seven.

He too says officers were warning people that the area is a gay cruising zone where gay men meet for “indiscriminate sex” — and that “the community” doesn’t want this.

He too spoke on condition of anonymity.

Both men say they feel the Mounties are discriminating against gay men and singling out the gay cruising zone, while leaving straight people alone.

RCMP Cpl Rob Worfley denies the area is being targeted or that officers were assigned to be there. He says the roadblock details were part of regular law enforcement in the area.

But Worfley says the checks will continue as long as men continue to have sex in the bushes at the top of the trail where other people in Pacific Spirit Park have been stumbling across them.

“It’s an indecent act,” says Worfley, who was among the officers doing the checks.

Section 173 of Canada’s Criminal Code says “every one who willfully does an indecent act in a public place in the presence of one or more persons… is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.”

Worfley makes no apologies for the way the situation was handled.

He says the spot checks were set up to discourage what he calls the indecent activity.

Sexual orientation has nothing to do with it, he says.

“I’ve stumbled across a couple myself,” Worfley continues. “It’s not that it’s gay, straight, hetero or homosexual. It’s that people are having sex in the bushes.”

Worfley says some plainclothes police officers even got propositioned during their spot checks.

RCMP Staff Sgt Kevin Kenna confirms there have been ongoing road checks in the area but was unaware of any “indiscriminate sex” warnings allegedly being given to motorists.

Most cruisers tend to go down to the gay section at Wreck Beach where the situation does not cause any problems, he notes.

“It’s only a few that cause the problems,” he adds.

“What we want to discourage is people having sex in the bushes,” Worfley explains. “If people take offence to that, I’m sorry.”

So where does the corporal suggest gay men have sex?

“In a room would probably be the best,” he says.

Six years ago, the first Mountie to come out as queer at the force’s Regina, SK training facility said he wasn’t going to crawl through dense bush to seek out gay men having sex at Wreck Beach.

But “if anybody’s stupid enough to be doing that graphic sex act right in the middle of the trail, then we’ll enforce that law,” Const Rob Ploughman warned, urging cruisers to be discreet.

Ploughman said as a Mountie he had to enforce public policy.

Signs announcing gay-friendly areas at Wreck might be an idea, he suggested at the time, adding that responsibility would belong to the then-Greater Vancouver Regional District.

Veteran cruiser Walter Muller isn’t buying the RCMP’s arguments. He says he’s heard all those arguments before when cops cracked down on queers in gay cruising areas in the 1970s.

Muller believes the latest Wreck Beach crackdown is part of a greater police presence he says he’s noticed in the city’s cruising areas.

“I think there’s a general clampdown for the Olympics,” Muller suggests. “Are they lumping us in with undesirables because we might offend some tourist?

“It always starts with little things like this and it escalates. It’s control,” he alleges.

He too believes the police warnings of “indiscriminate sex” are nothing short of intimidation intended to shame people.

The Wreck Beach road checks were first documented on the squirt.org cruising site in mid-May.

“These four cops have a hate on and are overstepping their mandate. Someone needs to give a legal opinion here. And their staff sergeant should start assigning some serious duties for them!” says one post.

Other posts suggest the behaviour of some people heading for the beach might be part of the problem.

Those posts describe people undressing before getting to the beach; one post noted three women running screaming after a naked elderly man appeared in front of them.

Other posts note the mess left by some cruisers.

“Condoms, condom wrappers, tissues, lube containers, magazines, newspapers etc left in the bushes and on the trails by inconsiderate slobs… for Christ’s sake, people, clean up after yourselves!” it says.

Micheal Vonn of the BC Civil Liberties Association prefaced her comments by saying: “We believe there is a public interest in not being exposed to sex acts without consent.”

However, Vonn says setting up checkpoints is “highly problematic.”

Requesting ID to run through a computer which may document an individual’s previous stops for public sex “is some kind of dragnet,” she says.

Every encounter with police can be entered in computers and can be full of subjective comments from officers, she explains. “They can come back to haunt you.”

If guys walking in the area are being asked for identification, they are under no obligation to give it to officers without a reasonable explanation as to why it is being requested, Vonn adds.

“You’re being asked for your bona fides to walk along a public trail,” she points out.

No other cruising sites around the university appear to have been targeted with roadblocks.