A young man from Gravenhurst, Ontario, who was skating at a park over the weekend said an Ontario Provincial Police officer shoved a 12-year-old boy to the ground unprovoked.
Brodie O’Hare, 19, posted a video to Instagram Monday showing an OPP officer pushing a child on a scooter onto the ground at a skate park in Gravenhurst, about a two-hour drive north from Toronto. The incident comes amid widespread criticism of the province’s crackdown on outdoor activities during a surging third wave of COVID-19.
O’Hare, who did not shoot the video, told VICE World News the officer shoved the boy to the ground on Sunday for no reason. He said the boy had been complying with the officer’s demands that he put on a mask, which is not required by law outdoors in Ontario.
“That boy didn’t cuss at him or talk back; he complied completely,” O’Hare said. “That little boy did not deserve to be shoved basically full force to the ground. That cop stiff-armed him.”
In a statement issued Tuesday, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said Peel police are investigating an incident that took place on April 18 “involving a member of the Bracebridge OPP and a young person.”
“Officers stopped to speak to a group of young people, none of whom were wearing masks or social distancing. Officers attempted to interact with the youths, which led to a physical confrontation between one officer and one young person.”
In response to a list of specific allegations, the OPP said it could not comment because the situation is being investigated.
VICE World News has obtained a copy of the minute-long video, which opens with a couple of kids scooting out of frame as one says, “They’re asking for IDs.”
In the distance, a male cop shoves a boy off his scooter, causing him to fall on the grass. Another cop is also on scene.
O’Hare said the cop who shoved the child is the same person shouting, “Do not touch me” in the video, but said the boy did not touch the officer nor talk back to him.
He said the park was open when officers came in and began demanding that the kids and teens wear masks, and asking a couple of them for identification. O’Hare said the cop who pushed the child seemed aggressive, and a few of the older teens were “lipping him off.”
O’Hare said the cop told the 12-year-old to get his mask on and that the park was closed. He said the boy responded that he was going to leave, to which the cop began demanding his ID and his parents’ phone number.
“This cop just was aggravated from a few other kids that were lipping him off, not wearing masks, and I guess that’s what triggered him,” O’Hare said. “He yelled at the kid for not complying to give ID, which a 12-year-old does not have.”
In the video, O’Hare asks the officer, “What the fuck are you doing, bud? He’s 12 years old.”
While holding the child’s scooter, the cop replies, “Well, he’s failing to identify. If anybody else does. You guys, this behaviour is unacceptable. The way you guys are acting is unacceptable.”
The cop then appears to lean in towards the child he shoved and says, “You cannot talk to an adult like this.”
In the video, the child responds, “I didn’t say anything.”
The other cop then walks the child away from the officer who shoved him, and instructs an older teen to leave.
O’Hare is heard on video saying, “We’re trying to leave.”
The incident comes as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced—and then quickly walked back after a swift public backlash—sweeping new powers for police to enforce the province’s latest stay-at-home order. The initial order, issued Friday, closed off playgrounds, skate parks, golf courses, and soccer fields and gave police the authority to stop and demand identification from anyone in Ontario.
In response, most provincial police forces, including in Toronto and Ottawa, said they would not be conducting random stops of people. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it would launch a challenge and that the new rules were unconstitutional.
Notably, the OPP initially said it would be enforcing the provincial order.
“Law enforcement now has the ability to ask anyone outside their residence, including motorists, to indicate their purpose for leaving home and provide their address,” the police force tweeted.
On Saturday, the province changed course, limiting police’s new powers to only questioning anyone they reasonably suspect of violating the ban on outdoor gatherings. The province also reneged its playground ban, but other outdoor recreational activities remain prohibited.
In his statement, Carrique said, “The skate park where the incident occurred is currently closed under the provincial stay-at-home order.”
O’Hare said technically the skate park is part of the playground and should not be closed. But he said the park has been closed since the alleged assault.
“That’s how I get my exercise in and learn and focus on something else instead of sitting inside 24/7 after work so it’s kind of my way to release all of my energy from being cooped up inside from COVID,” he said.
“All of these kids are doing online school and stuck at home… Now they’ve just ruined it for tons of people.”
He said he believes the cop is a “bully with a gun” who should lose his job. At the very least, he said the officer owes the boy and his family an apology.
“He was very scared, terrified, mortified. He felt embarrassed,” O’Hare said of the kid who got shoved.
Carrique said the OPP “holds its members to highest levels of professionalism and accountability.”
The OPP statement did not name the officer in the video, who has been assigned to administrative duties while the investigation by Peel police is carried out.
Peel police are also conducting an internal affairs investigation into one of their own sergeants, who was suspended last week after video emerged of him hugging, shaking hands, and posing for photos with anti-maskers at a protest to re-open a gym in Mississauga.
Last November, OPP officers shot and killed a 1-year-old baby boy and his father in Kawartha Lakes. The three officers who fired their guns have since refused to speak to Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, which investigates when police kill or injure people.
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