A sports commentator in Canada was left in “excruciating agony” after being attacked while confronting a group of antigay preachers.
Justin Morissette, host of Wrestle Central on Sportsnet 650, said he confronted homophobic evangelical preachers in Vancouver’s West End, the location of the city’s gay neighborhood.
Speaking to City News 1130, Morissette said that one of the preachers attacked him, snapping bones in his leg and dislocating his knee, after he challenged them on their views.
Police are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime, and Morisette said he will require metal plates in his leg for the rest of his life.
Morissette said that he was walking through the West End on Saturday, Aug. 22, and heard two people espousing “bigotry and religious hatred toward the gay community” over an “obscenely loud PA [system].”
He said that religious bigots preaching hate towards LGBTQ people has become a “pretty persistent issue in the West End,” and said that their decision to preach in the midst of Vancouver’s LGBTQ community felt deliberate.
Morissette said that he approached the preachers and told them, “You are not welcome in this community to be saying these things. Pack your things and go somewhere else.”
When they refused to leave, he asked if they would reduce the volume on their speakers, as they were audible “for blocks, and blocks, and blocks.”
Morissette said he then grabbed the preacher’s microphone, refusing to hand it back. One of the men then used a “judo-style takedown,” which Morissette said, “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 added.
Morissette tweeted in the aftermath of the attack, saying, “I’m still standing,” and sharing an image of his left leg post-surgery.
In a separate tweet, he wrote, “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.”
He added: “My leg is super fucked up, and that sucks. But the violent man who did this to me would have done it, or possibly much worse to someone else down the line had he not been arrested tonight. I have prevented harm to someone I will never know, and they won’t know I did it either.
“Do not allow yourself to be a passenger to someone else’s abuse. I am in excruciating pain and my knee is incredibly mangled. But I would feel worse if I knew I saw that and just went home and minded my own business. Don’t let the bastards win.”
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
I’m still standing pic.twitter.com/Pe1AsbD7uO
— Justin Morissette 👊🏻 (@JustinMoris) August 24, 2020
Vancouver Police said in a statement that they responded to a call in the West End and found a group of people preaching and shouting anti-gay comments.
“A short time after the preaching started, one individual approached the group and asked them to stop the anti-gay chants and to stop speaking into the microphone,” VPD spokesperson Sgt. Aaron Roed said. “A disturbance ensued and the individual is suspected to have been thrown to the ground, where they unfortunately broke their leg.”
Two men were arrested at the scene and charged with aggravated assault and mischief, with police also considering whether the attack constitutes a 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,” Roed said.
“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.”
Local residents said that the preaching is a regular occurrence in the West End, with one person telling City News 1130 that they “just start angrily shouting…it’s hate speech against LGBTQ, against people who are Muslim…I mean, it’s amplified.”
A number of Twitter users responded to Morissette’s tweets thanking him for standing up to the preachers and offering help for any medical expenses related to the attack.
“Standing up to these thugs is always the right thing to do. As a father of LGBTQ+ daughters I thank you,” one person tweeted. “I’m so sorry about your leg. I have not encountered that kind of pushback violence when I’ve said enough, stop. Get better soon.”
“As a father of a lgbt teen who lives in this neighbourhood I can’t thank you enough for standing up for us all in that moment!” another person wrote. “It’s a safer place [because] of you. Only wish I had been there to back you up!”
“Standing up to bullies takes huge courage. I salute you,” a third person tweeted. “A lifetime injury is a high price to pay but the cost of doing nothing would clearly have been your own self respect. Sometimes it is worth it.”
Speaking to City News 1130, Morissette said that, despite the “excruciating agony” of the attack, he didn’t regret his actions, saying he found the preaching “extremely disruptive and offensive.”
“I had to listen to these guys tell my neighbors that they’re going to burn in hell forever because of who they love and who they are,” he said.
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