Early in Spring of 2020, protesters began showing up on the lawns of Ontario's legislature, Queen's Park, to protest the lockdown measures enacted by Premier Doug Ford to combat the developing COVID-19 pandemic.
Since those early days of demonstration, the Toronto Police Service has largely been lenient with their enforcement on the protesters as a whole, though a number of individuals, like prominent speakers at the rallies Chris Sky or Aylmer, Ontario Church of God pastor Henry Hildebrandt have received tickets for their involvement.
With Premier Ford's declaration of a second state of emergency in the province on January 7, speculation surrounded what would occur when the protesters gathered — as they have each Saturday since that first demonstration last Spring — this weekend.
Toronto police issued a warning to attendees early on Saturday morning through a statement, declaring that the COVID-19 pandemic was “not just a public health issue; it is a public safety issue,” adding that “participating in large gatherings, including protests, is not just in contravention of these orders but also puts attendees and the broader community at risk,” before declaring that when these events occurred, police would be present and ready to enforce these orders.
As had been the case on so many prior occasions, Rebel News' David Menzies and cameramen were downtown at Yonge-Dundas Square this afternoon to cover what happened.
Police formed a perimeter around the square itself, and made an announcement over a loudspeaker to the crowd that by the power granted through emergency orders, the gathering was prohibited, and urged the crowd to disperse immediately as a protester cited Section 2 of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in response to the officer.
One man was dragged away and detained by a number of officers, loudly questioning why he was being detained as the group of police worked to cuff him while a crowd formed. “This is disgusting,” one protester shouted.
An officer even grabbed Rebel cameraman Mocha Bezirgan and threatened him with arrest.
Mocha was also threatened with a fine, and told where he had to be to film the scenes.
Hugs Over Mask protest organizer Kelly Anne Wolfe was arrested while speaking to the crowd, telling the officers that, in her opinion, detaining her would be assault. Unsurprisingly, this did not deter the officers from moving on her.
Pastor Hildebrandt, after having received tickets in the past for his involvement in the protests against the lockdown, was undeterred by those previous incidents, arriving to greet demonstrators downtown, leaning out a window and shaking hands.
Protesters began marching through the streets of downtown after the speakers had concluded and the police had blocked the square with a large presence.
The man in the red and black plaid that was arrested in an earlier video will be featured in an upcoming interview with David Menzies, as he became the latest person to join Rebel News' FightTheFines.com campaign.
Protesters headed to Toronto Mayor John Tory's condo, with police setting up barricades around the building.
Frustrated with his vocal support for the lockdown, protesters chanted for the police to arrest Mayor Tory.
The protesters moved their demonstration over to Queen's Park, the house of the provincial government and original site of the anti-lockdown protests, where more police were set up fencing and stood watch.
The assembled crowd sang Canada's national anthem as the march concluded.
Having been a significant presence at the Adamson Barbecue shutdown, and waiting by at a gym that reopened in defiance of the lockdown, the Toronto Police Service mounted unit was again on scene.
Some demonstrators have now moved to the Bell Media — owners of CTV News and CP24 — studios to continue the protest.
As the protest continued, police began detaining more members of the crowd, including this woman who police nabbed as a loudspeaker blared police “were asking [protesters] to leave the area.”
“It's time to go home,” the voice over the speaker said. “The protest is over.”
Officers detained another woman in a separate incident.
Another man was arrested, complaining his ribs were bruised as police placed cuffs on him while he laid on the sidewalk. “I was on public property,” the man urged to the officers. “Please leave the square,” an officer said as the man was led away.
A large presence of police rapidly swept in and arrested another man during the gathering.
One man was arrested following an interview with Rebel reporter David Menzies. Stay tuned for a full report from the scene by Menzies).
Afterwards, it was reported that police handed common nuisance charges to protest organizers Kelly Anne Wolfe and Lamont Daigle. Another man, Conor Chappell was give assault and obstruction charges. Local radio station 680 News shared a police statement saying that a further 18 Fail to Comply charges were given to individuals at the demonstration.
Rebel News boss Ezra Levant, responding to the Toronto Police Service's announcement of the arrests on Twitter, vowed to fight tickets on behalf of demonstrators, touting the ongoing FightTheFines.com campaign that has featured heavily on the channel recently.