VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Justin Morissette says the person who assaulted him, shattering his leg, is part of a group that has been blaring bigoted, hateful, and homophobic rhetoric over loudspeakers in Vancouver’s West End all summer long.
Morissette, who is with our sister station Sportsnet 650, says when he saw two people set-up at Thurlow and Davie streets near where he lives Saturday night, he was furious.
“It’s been a pretty persistent issue in the West End this summer that these so-called street preachers have taken to the streets with these obscenely loud PA systems to spew what I believe to be bigotry and religious hatred toward the gay community in the West End,” he explains, adding he believes the decision to set up in the neighbourhood that is home to Vancouver’s LGBTQ community was deliberate.
“It’s no surprise that that’s where they’re setting up to do that. They are looking for trouble and I guess last night trouble found them. It happened to be me who stepped up and said, ‘You are not welcome in this community to be saying these things. Pack your things and go somewhere else.’ They refused to do that. I asked them if they were going to stay if they would at least turn the volume down because I really can not stress enough how obscenely loud these speakers are. You can hear them for blocks, and blocks, and blocks.”
Next, Morissette says he grabbed the microphone and refused to give it back
“In a judo-style takedown he wrenched my leg against his until my tibia and fibula snapped, broke and my knee dislocated. He absolutely one-thousand per cent knew that that was going to happen when he did that, this was a malicious intentional break of my leg,” he says, telling NEWS 1130 the breaks resulted in the need for surgery.
I stood up to anti-gay evangelical bullies in the West End this evening, and they purposefully broke my leg for the trouble. I don’t know why I did this. It felt like the right thing to do and no one else would. I’m going to have metal plates in my leg for the rest of my life.
— Justin Morissette (@JustinMoris) August 23, 2020
The recovery will be long, Morissette explains.
“I have a huge metal rod on the exterior of my left leg at the moment and I’m likely going to be stuck in the hospital for a couple weeks here,” he says, adding another surgery will have to be done after the swelling subsides.
I’m still standing pic.twitter.com/Pe1AsbD7uO
— Justin Morissette (@JustinMoris) August 24, 2020
“There was a stretch in the immediate aftermath when I was in excruciating agony that I wished I had just minded my own business and done nothing, but honestly I think I would feel worse about it if that is what I had done.”
Morisette lives in the neighbourhood.
“I found it extremely disruptive and offensive. What they were saying to people who live in my community and are my neighbours,” he tells NEWS 1130 from the hospital.
“I had to listen to these guys tell my neighbours that they’re going to burn in hell forever because of who they love and who they are.”
He adds he thinks someone other than him — either the city or the Vancouver Police Department — should have intervened to put a stop to the group’s actions long before Saturday.
“The volume alone should’ve been enough to get them shut down.”
‘It’s just been sort of escalating, and our huge concern has been that someone would get seriously hurt’
Lynne Polischuick also lives in the neighbourhood and like Morissette, says the offensive screaming has been happening every weekend.
“They just start angrily shouting what they call, you know, Evangelism, but it’s hate speech against LGBTQ, against people who are Muslim…I mean, it’s…it’s amplified hate speech.”
She says she and many of her neighbours have been reaching out to both police and to the City of Vancouver, to no avail.
“I myself have called 911 twice, I’ve called the non-emergency line. They’re very sympathetic, they do send officers out, but they don’t seem to do anything. I know folks here have also reached out to the city.”
Our @Tarnjitkparmar spoke w/Lynne Polischuick who says she was afraid something like this would happen since this has been an ongoing issue for months. “They just start angrily shouting…it’s hate speech against LGBTQ, against people who are Muslim…I mean, it’s amplified.
— Ria Renouf (@riarenouf) August 23, 2020
“[It] just seems to be this, passing of the buck back and forth where police say: ‘It’s a protest, it’s free speech, we can’t do anything, and it has to be enforced by bylaw.’ Then bylaw doesn’t do anything to touch it or to stop it. It’s just been really frustrating.”
Polischuick and her neighbours were worried someone would eventually end up getting hurt because of the remarks. She says at the very least, someone ought to do something about the noise.
“Some enforcement of noise bylaws, at the minimum. Some kind of ticketing or fine; something to keep these folks from coming back and just…antagonizing the neighbourhood with impunity. I mean, I know there’s the whole freedom of speech and Charter of Rights thing, where people can say what they want to say…but I think this speech borders on hate speech – if not being hate speech.”
Police recommending charges, investigating assault as possible hate crime
In a statement, Sgt. Aaron Roed with Vancouver Police tells NEWS 1130 they were called out to the area where they found a group of people using an amplifier and microphone, preaching about religion — and also yelling anti-gay chants.
“A disturbance ensued and the individual is suspected to have been thrown to the ground, where they, unfortunately, broke their leg.”
Roed says two men were arrested and charges of aggravated assault and mischief are being forwarded to Crown counsel for consideration, and investigators are also reviewing this file as a potential hate crime.
“VPD will not tolerate any type of hate crimes and will investigate all reports of hate crimes or suspected hate crimes that happen in the City of Vancouver. Public safety will always remain a priority for the VPD and we want everyone to feel safe and comfortable in their communities and neighbourhoods they visit.”
Police say a large crowd gathered “due to the assault,” and are asking any witnesses who have not been interviewed to contact the VPD.
With files from Vanessa Doban