toronto library protest

Huge crowds show up to protest against the Toronto Public Library

The streets surrounding a small branch of the Toronto Public Library were swarming with protesters on Tuesday night as Meghan Murphy — a controversial writer with notoriously transphobic views — spoke to a sold-out crowd of her supporters about gender identity.

Murphy's scheduled appearance at TPL's Palmerston branch near Bloor and Bathurst has been the subject of intense public debate in recent weeks, with thousands arguing that the Twitter-banned Canadian shouldn't be given a public platform, least of all within a public library.

Nearly 9,000 people had signed a petition calling upon the TPL board to "stop hate speech from being spread" in Toronto ahead of the event after it was announced that a group called Radical Feminists Unite had rented out theatre space within the Palmerston branch for Murphy to speak on October 29.

City Librarian Vickery Bowles refused to cancel the event, arguing that libraries are obligated to protect free speech and provide resources to all citizens, regardless of their beliefs.

The move was criticized widely by public figures, including Mayor John Tory, and denounced by community organizations such as Toronto Pride, The Toronto Comic Arts Festival and even the Toronto Public Library Workers Union.

When it became clear that Murphy — who has vocally opposed both the cultural and legal acceptance of transgender women — would indeed be speaking, a coalition of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and library workers organized a peaceful protest in support of trans rights.

"Toronto Public Library has seen fit to allow Meghan Murphy, a trans-exclusionary writer banned from Twitter for hateful conduct, to hold a talk at its Palmerston branch, despite clear language in TPL rental policy that gives the library the right to refuse events that will further endanger vulnerable people—as this one certainly will," reads the event's description.

"Palmerston is a public space meant to be welcoming for families and youth—including queer and trans families, queer and trans youth. Those protesting this event wish to keep their library safe for such vulnerable community members."

The protest went off without a hitch before, during and after Murphy's speech, which was entitled "Gender Identity: What Does It Mean for Society, the Law, and Women?"

Murphy told roughly 100 attendees inside the library that she had "not suggested that trans people be excluded from spaces" (despite the fact that she's famous for saying trans women shouldn't use public washrooms designated for women.)

"I'm not actually interested in whether or not people identify as trans. It has no bearing on my arguments. I'm interested in who's male and who's female," she said, according to the Canadian Press, adding that she has "never advocated for violence against anyone" nor "engaged in any hate speech."

As they left, attendees were met with boos and chants of "trans rights are human rights" from protesters gathered outside.

At one point, protesters got inside the library to denounce Murphy, who many have panned as a "trans-exclusionary radical feminist."

Police kept protesters inside the library for about 30 minutes, by most reports, prompting further criticism from the crowd.

Eventually, the protesters emerged back out into the crowd as those waiting outside cheered.

Not even Toronto's mayor was able to stop the event from taking place, but residents of the city made their thoughts on Murphy's views quite clear with their actions and powerful signs reading "Trans Rights Now," "We Exist" and "Let Us Live, "among other things.

"Overwhelmed in both good ways and bad. Growing up in a small community I've never been part of community action at this level," wrote Toronto resident and trans woman Niko Stratis on Twitter following the protest.

"It was a lot to take in, some minor PTSD triggers here and there, but mostly: so many beautiful people came and stood side by side."

Lead photo by

Julia Duchesne

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