Charges dropped against 4 of the ‘Peace 11’ protesters

May 24, 2024 | GTA/Local News, News

Four protesters who were charged with mischief, conspiracy to commit an offence and criminal harassment after an Indigo store was vandalized in November had their charges dropped by the Crown.

The four are part of Peace 11, a group of 11 people who were accused of vandalizing an Indigo bookstore on Nov. 10, 2023, which Toronto Police called a “hate-motivated” attack.

The incident at the Indigo bookstore at Bay and Bloor streets involved posters accusing CEO Heather Reisman of supporting genocide and the splashing of red paint across the entrance.

The Centre for Isreal and Jewish Affairs described the incident at the time as “antisemitism” and said Reisman was targeted because of her Jewish background.

On Wednesday, May 22, at a press conference hosted by World BEYOND War Canada outside of Toronto Police headquarters on College Street, Karl Gardner, one accused whose charges were dropped, said this incident was being used to distract attention from Gaza.

“Chapters Indigo is a multi-million dollar corporation whose CEO co-founded the HESEG Foundation with her husband, which provides generous scholarships to soldiers of the IDF, the Israeli military force carrying out a genocide in Gaza as we speak,” Gardner said.

He is a political scientist and a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. He was placed on “administrative leave” after being charged and at least four of the 11 have been suspended from their jobs.

“Since November, our names and reputations have been dragged through the mud. even called anti-semites and hate criminals and worse,” he said. “The police failed to produce enough evidence to give the Crown a reasonable prospect of conviction.”

Gardner said the dropped charges did not come as a relief for the four activists and that they do not erase the damage done to their lives over the last six months.

“This is not justice,” he said. “We are angry that every day we wake up and witness the continuation of a genocide. We are angry that seven others still face charges in this case and dozens more face criminalization across the city and we will not stop until all the charges are dropped.”

In a statement shared by the TPS, The Crown said the decision shouldn’t be viewed as criticism of “the police determination that there were reasonable grounds for the arrests of these four individuals.”

Rachel Small, an organizer with World BEYOND War, criticized the tactics used by the police during the arrests.

“The majority of them were awoken in the middle of the night to upwards of 10 police officers who had broken into their apartments and handcuffed them, some of them in their bedrooms,” Small said.

“Their apartments were raided, ransacked, front doors were broken, left dangling off their hinges, their computers and cell phones were confiscated, everyone present was handcuffed, in some cases including elderly relatives, parents were handcuffed in front of their children,” Small said.

The remaining seven are still being prosecuted but Gardner believes their charges will also be dropped.