Two people arrested at an anti-vaccination protest at the Eaton Centre on Saturday have been charged with assault, Toronto police say.
According to investigators, a large group of anti-vaccination protesters arrived at the Eaton Centre on Saturday and attempted to enter the mall.
Police say the protesters were denied access by uniformed security staff and at one point, a security guard was assaulted.
No injuries to protesters or security staff were reported.
Police say Michael Leaf, a 29-year-old Thornhill resident, and Vanessa Carvalho, a 23-year-old Brampton woman, have each been charged with one count of assault.
They are scheduled to appear at the Old City Hall courthouse on Dec. 15 at 11 a.m.
Caryma Sa’d, who was at the protest to capture footage of what was taking place, said the incident began as a rally at Yonge-Dundas Square.
“At the end of sort of the main speaker’s portion of the rally, people kind of dispersed. And I started hearing yelling coming from behind me,” she told CP24 on Sunday, adding that she could hear people encouraging protesters to “band together” in non-compliance.
In video footage of the protest, people could be seen shoving security guards and police in an attempt to enter the downtown shopping mall.
“There was violence on the part of the crowd,” S’ad said.
“I would say mall security really did its best to hold the people back and police were there, but whatever the rationale was for not being strong on enforcement, the reality is they really didn’t do much to hold people back.”
Cadillac Fairview, the company that owns the Eaton Centre, released a statement Sunday.
“Cadillac Fairview collaborated with Toronto Police Service to prevent the group from entering the shopping centre. We take the health and safety of our guests, clients and employees very seriously and at no time did the centre give permission for this action. Given the circumstances, the primary focus of TPS and Cadillac Fairview was to maintain a safe environment for all and minimize disruption while the group was onsite,” the statement read.
“Cadillac Fairview with the support of TPS will continue efforts to prevent this from occurring again in the property.”
Speaking to reporters at a vaccination clinic at Sherway Mall on Sunday, Mayor John Tory said while protesters have a right to demonstrate, they must do so peacefully.
“Those people who have an objection to vaccinations, and proof of vaccination being required, should decide that they are going to protest peacefully,” he said of the incident at the Eaton Centre on Saturday.
“I have no problem with them having a different opinion about this and I have no problem with them choosing, if that’s what they wish to do, not to get vaccinated…. That’s a choice they can make. What they don’t have a choice of doing is obstructing other people or behaving in an aggressive manner.”
Tory encouraged mall operators to call police if they feel these protests are “crossing a line.”
“What we don’t have is the right for a group of people to have tyranny over the majority who have chosen to get vaccinated, who support the policies of the governments to have proof-of-vaccination be required,” he added.
“I don’t tell the police what to do nor do any politicians but I would just say my opinion would be if people are engaging in aggressive, especially physically aggressive behaviour that is putting others at risk or is unduly disruptive, then I would hope that the police would decide… to arrest them.”
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