Three people have been charged in connection with a protest outside an event featuring People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier in Hamilton last month, including a man whose family temporarily shut down their business amid backlash over his participation.
The Al Soufi family was forced to close its Toronto restaurant earlier this month after they said they received hundreds of death threats over their son Alaa Al Soufi’s participation in the rally.
The popular Syrian restaurant, Soufi’s, reopened days later but is temporarily under different management while the family takes a break from the business.
At the time, Husam Al Soufi said his son had taken part in demonstrations “trying to support marginalized people” and had made mistakes, for which he learned his lesson “the hard way.”
Hamilton police say about 100 protesters were outside the building at Mohawk College on Sept. 29 as people entered the venue. No injuries were reported.
The protest drew heated criticism after video footage surfaced showing masked protesters blocking an elderly woman with a walker and her husband from entering. Some shouted “Nazi scum off our streets” as the couple tried to pass, according to news reports.
“They were in a lineup … and treating me like I’m a criminal,” Dorothy Marston, 81, told CBC in an interview.
“If I moved, they moved, and they would not allow me through. They were hollering ‘Nazi’ and ‘racist’ and all this nonsense. It was more than nonsense—it was frightening in my country.”
Reporter Andy Ngo posted a video on Twitter of the elderly couple being harassed. “Antifa protesters scream at & block elderly couple outside an event featuring conservative politician @MaximeBernier & @RubinReport. Further violence broke out, leading to two arrests. Mohawk College had faced massive campaign to cancel the event,” he wrote.
Police say four people in all were arrested and released unconditionally that night. Investigators reviewed hours of video footage from media and social media and say they later identified suspects in connection to several offences.
As a result, they say one man was arrested on Tuesday and two more turned themselves in Wednesday.
Alaa Al Soufi, 27, is charged with two counts of intimidation, two of disguise with intent and one of causing a disturbance.
Thirty-three-year-old Kevin Metcalf of Toronto is charged with obstructing police and Maximiliano Herrera, a 30-year-old from Toronto, is charged with intimidation and assault.
Police say they are still trying to identify two people who were assaulted—a man who was filming the protest on his phone, and a woman whose hat was knocked off her head by a man. They say the offences were captured on video surveillance and the suspects in those incidents have been identified.
Meanwhile, Toronto police are investigating a complaint filed by the Al Soufi family, who said they have turned over hundreds of hate messages to the force. The family was not immediately available for comment on Alaa Al Soufi’s charges on Wednesday.
By Paola Loriggio