Segments of an unruly crowd that tossed objects at police on October 3 in downtown Toronto could face assault charges.
A police officer suffered a broken hand bone and two officers’ helmets were cracked during events at Yonge-Dundas Square.
“We have hosted many-large-scale events, and the public are law-abiding, good citizens,” Chief Mark Saunders said at a news conference at police headquarters on October 7. “I feel that’s what separates Toronto from so many other cities. My concern is that these people were throwing bottles at police officers, there were children in the area and we were responding to a call for a person with a gun. There were a lot of people that had their phones recording. I will like a copy of these where people are seen throwing things at police because they will be charge criminally.”
Saunders said the behaviour displayed was extremely disturbing, dangerous and reckless and could have resulted in serious injuries.
“We responded to several calls for a man with a gun,” he said. “Officers identified that man whom we allege had an imitation firearm, an asp and knife and arrested him. At that point, the mood of the crowd changed. We saw young people, many under the apparent influence of alcohol and drugs, become aggressive and threatening. People in the crowd started throwing bottles and other objects at police officers.
He said the crowd reaction was disturbing.
“It seems clear that, for many there, it was a party atmosphere. There were smiles, laughter, encouragement, booing and cheering which are attitudes completely at odds with the threat to those children present and to my police officers.”
Saunders believes the officers’ professionalism, training and restraint helped de-escalate what could have turned out to be a very violent situation.
“I am always concerned for the safety of my officers each and every day,” he said. “They have got a tough job to do. We can equip them with all the skills and training, but you never know what the next call can bring.”
Some downtown subway stations were damaged during the fracas.
“If we have evidence to make an arrest, we will do so,” Saunders said. “…Our role to protect public safety means we are investigating what happened. Where we have sufficient evidence, we will charge people and put them before the courts.”
The Chief said the city should be having a public discussion about what is acceptable behaviour on our streets.
“We take pride in our public spaces where people gather. They must be able to do so without being subjected to the unacceptable behaviour we saw over the weekend, behaviour that somehow sees violence as some sort of performance to be encouraged, supported, recorded and broadcast. This type of behaviour can never be tolerated.”
Anyone with information or video footage can contact Detective Ryan Van Nest at 416-808-5244 or Detective Sergeant Heather Nichols at 416-808-5216; Crimestoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.