Borrowing a page from "Porno" Peter LaBarbera, Toronto city councilor Giorgio "Creepy" Mammoliti made it a point to film Saturday's Dyke March during Toronto Pride Week festivities, in hopes of catching any sign of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) or anyone sporting similar messaging to them. QuAIA is a group that opposes what it calls "Israeli Apartheid" - the ongoing treatment of Palestinians in occupied territories in the Middle East, and specifically LGBT Palestinians.
Their overall message is not anti-semitic, although much has been made about a shirt that was worn by one participant in 2009 that showed a (crossed out) swastika. Earlier this year, Toronto City Council made funding of the Toronto Pride dependent on whether or not QuAIA was allowed to participate, after anti-semitism was used as an excuse to defund the event.
The Green Mammoliti with the Two-Pronged Camera
QuAIA had withdrawn its participation in the parade in order to head off a defunding of Toronto Pride, although they did drop a banner during event festivities. But during the following day's Dyke March (which a National Post commentator refers to as "a relatively unstructured annual parade along Bloor and Yonge Streets in which any woman or trans person can participate"), a new group called "Dykes and Trans People for Palestine" was rumoured to be marching. Mammoliti made sure to be there to film it all - and not very discretely, either (causing #peepingmammoliti to trend on Twitter). He managed to find a reference to "Israeli Apartheid" and other expressions of support for LGBT Palestinians, and is now calling to end all funding to the event. (The Toronto Star is showing some of Mammoliti's footage.)
In the short-term, Councillor Doug Ford suggested the city may withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in Pride funding already promised to organizers.
In the long-term, the footage, which shows dyke parade participants carrying anti-Israeli apartheid signage, could have drastic implications for every entity that receives city grants, from Caribana to the Toronto International Film Festival.
Rabble.ca features an open letter to the City Council from Elle Flanders, a member of both Toronto's Jewish community and gay community (and a driving force behind QuAIA), who reminds them that:
Irwin Cotler (Canadian MP, co-founder of the Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Antisemitism and former justice minister) has finally put this argument to rest when he states unequivocally that criticism of Israel as an apartheid state is within the bounds of legitimate discourse.
So essentially, QuAIA's protests are the same kind of freedom of speech that far right commentators in Canada are (inconsistently) claiming to care about.
Flanders goes on to point out that many of the people participating in protests of apartheid in Palestine are in fact Jewish people of conscience, and calls out Mammoliti's and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's homophobic agendas.
Ford, meanwhile, caused a bit of a kerfuffle by refusing to take part in Toronto Pride events. Which is his prerogative, I suppose, but it certainly doesn't do much for his image, compared to mayors in provinces that are reputedly "redneck" who are participating in their cities as grand marshals.
Georgio Mammoliti has a largely anti-gay history, and pitched Toronto's "brothel island" idea as a response to the court's overturning of Ontario's anti-prostitution laws:
A defined red-light district, Mammoliti argues, would help the cash-strapped city regulate and tax brothels.
"In an economic sense for the City of Toronto, we could probably do something that will create tourism as well," he told CBC News.
If he first earned the moniker "Creepy" when proposing that the city get into the pimping business, then stalking and filming lesbians is probably not going to help him much. Mammoliti spoke to LifeSiteNews (which gives an indication of what he considers journalism) and justified his crusade by maintaining his claims of discrimination, and adding in a bit about fiscal responsibility:
"I will attempt to put a stop to all funding to parades and marches until there's a new policy in place at City Hall that doesn't offend taxpayers in this city," he said. "We shouldn't be funding any political messaging at all. I think that we have to re-evaluate and reconsider everything we do with taxpayer's dollars."
Toronto Pride receives $130,000 from the city, and the 2009 event brought in an estimated $136 million into the city's economy. Toronto has a license to hold the 2014 World Pride festival, which may also be at stake.