In the latest example of escalating hostility towards Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail, someone in a crowd of anti-vaccine protesters threw gravel at the Liberal leader in London, Ontario, Monday.
A video clip following a London campaign stop shows Trudeau—who is currently seeking re-election—moving through a screaming throng of what he’s called “anti-vaxxer mobs” towards the Liberals’ campaign bus when someone throws small pebbles in his direction. The gravel sprayed around Trudeau and those close to him, though the clip doesn’t clearly show if the rocks hit the Liberal leader.
Speaking to reporters in Montreal Tuesday, Trudeau said he had spoken to the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force, to let them know he wasn’t injured in the attack. He said it would be up to police whether to lay charges and that he would follow their recommendations on security at his campaign events.
He spent a chunk of time saying that he won’t back down to the anti-vaxxers plaguing his campaign events, noting “we will not let them win.”
“It’s easy to say something and stand for something that everyone believes in. It's harder to stand for something you believe in when you know you're going to be insulted and degraded in the worst possible terms for it. And yet that's not just who Liberals are, that's who Canadians are,” Trudeau said.
“Canadians, I mean the stereotype is that we’re polite and we’re friendly, and we are. We’re also made of steel. We also stand up strongly and clearly for what we know to be true.”
In late August, Trudeau had to cancel a campaign event in Bolton, Ontario, after dozens of anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protesters rallied and shouted obscenities for hours. A photo taken by Reuters’ photographer Carlos Osorio in Brantford Monday shows Trudeau giving the thumbs up to a crowd as someone gives him the finger.
Trudeau said he was giving the thumbs up to a man showing him the peace sign who was “standing between two people who were practically foaming at the mouth; they were so mad at me.”
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network is reporting that People’s Party of Canada supporters and a candidate attended the London event Monday. The far-right fringe party run by former Conservative Maxime Bernier has come out against vaccine passports and other COVID-19-related restrictions. Reporters following Trudeau’s campaign have also noted the number of people carrying PPC signs and shouting down the Liberal leader. Polling from the last week shows the PPC’s support as high as 7-8 percent—higher than the Green Party.
On Tuesday, Bernier condemned the attack on Trudeau.
“Someone hit me with an egg last week. I note that none of the other party leaders made any statement,” he tweeted. “Some idiot threw pebbles at Mr. Trudeau yesterday. I condemn it. Words are our weapons. But physical violence is ALWAYS wrong.”
Trudeau compared the behaviour of the anti-vax mobs to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“We see the slide towards some of the divisiveness we've been shocked and appalled at from the United States over the past while, as we see little pockets of people lashing out in ways that remind us of horrific events like the storming of the Capitol.”
He said he wants to keep people safe without creating more distance between politicians and members of the public.
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