Toronto police reopen most roads, increased presence remains in downtown core after weekend protest

Toronto police say as of Monday morning they have reopened most roads that were closed ahead of Saturday’s demonstration in the downtown core.

“The Toronto Police Service implemented significant road closures in the downtown core over the weekend,” police wrote in a tweet early Monday morning.

“Most roads have been re-opened. An increased police presence remains downtown.”

Toronto police say they are maintaining road closures and a heavy police presence downtown on Sunday following a massive demonstration on Saturday in which trucks blocked a major intersection for hours.

Staff Supt. Lauren Pogue, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said the plan is to limit disruptions to the downtown core and to continue to protect an area known as Hospital Row, a stretch of University Avenue where there is a string of hospitals. The plan is the same as it was on Saturday.

“We have a very similar goal today,” Pogue said. “Yesterday, our priority was to protect hospital row.”

She said ensuring access for workers, patients and their visiting families remains key.

“Those health care workers had unimpeded access to the hospitals. And we were successful in doing that. That continues to be a priority for us today,” she said.

“If demonstrators return, then we will work with them again to move them along and that includes the trucks. We hope we have their full co-operation. Everything went well yesterday. We have been very clear and continue to remind everybody that we will not allow prolonged protests or anybody staying throughout the night.”

Police said they may decide to lay charges at a later time in connection with the blocking of the intersection at Bloor Street West and Avenue Road. At least five large trucks were parked there.

Few trucks and a group of protesters remain at the intersection of Avenue Road and Bloor Street West, following a full day of demonstrations on Saturday. Nearly all the vehicles had left the area by 8 p.m. Police said there were only two official noise complaints made to the police as a result of the demonstration. 0:54

Pogue said police are not aware of any demonstrations against COVID-19 measures and vaccines mandates going on in the city on Sunday.

She also said police do not have an accurate number of protesters who gathered on the north lawn on Queen’s Park on Saturday but acknowledged the event drew a “significant” number of people.

Large crowds gathered at Queen’s Park after 12 p.m. The protest continued at the intersection of Bloor Avenue West and Avenue Road, where trucks blocked the intersection starting around 1 p.m. The vehicles were cleared out by 8 p.m.

Pogue said there were only two official noise complaints made to the police as a result of the demonstration. The city said staff members who handle noise complaints will be able to provide more information about numbers on Monday.

2 men arrested in separate incidents during protest

Police said they made two arrests in connection with the protest on Saturday.

A man, 22, was arrested on the north side of Queen’s Park and has been charged with assault with a weapon, administering a noxious substance — a smoke bomb — and public mischief.

Another man, 34, was arrested in the area of Bedford Road and Bloor Street West after he allegedly threw feces at another person. He has been charged with assault with a weapon.

A major intersection in downtown Toronto was blocked by trucks as part of a demonstration on Saturday against COVID-19 measures and vaccine mandates, but nearly all the vehicles had left the area by 8 p.m. ET. Protesters mainly gathered at Queen’s Park and the intersection of Avenue Road and Bloor Street West. The area known as Hospital Row on University Avenue remained blocked off by police who said their priority is to ensure emergency vehicles have access to hospitals. Several protests also took place at malls across the GTA Saturday. 1:15

Pogue added: “We facilitate peaceful protests. But as soon as somebody does something that puts anybody’s health and wellness in jeopardy, we certainly have to deal with that swiftly.”

She said the police presence downtown will be “heightened” and officers will be able to respond as needed.

Const. David Hopkinson, who also speaks for the Toronto police, said on Sunday that it is illegal to park a truck in an intersection without a permit, permission or direction from an officer.

“Depending on the circumstances, appropriate charges range from a by-law infraction to criminal mischief,” Hopkinson said.

“Officers may decide to lay charges at a later time. It may take some time to gather this information. Making the right enforcement decision is based on circumstance and the safety of everyone involved.”

Mayor thanks residents for patience

In a statement on Sunday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he met with Toronto Police Chief James Ramer for an update on the police response to the protest.

“While the situation remains peaceful today, police are continuing to monitor and a number of road closures remain in effect,” Tory said in the statement.

“My continuing thanks to all residents for your patience and understanding as we work to get through this and continue to protect public safety.”

Coun. Mike Layton, who represents University-Rosedale, told CBC Radio’s Fresh Air that he encourages the police to use every tool at their disposal to keep the hospitals open should the protests continue.

“I hope that we’re doing all we can and I hope that we are prepared,” he said.

Layton said much depends on the protesters themselves and whether they begin to harass local businesses and residents and display hateful symbols, as they have done in Ottawa.

“I think it crosses the line when you start impacting the rights of others,” he said.

The following roads are closed on Sunday:

  • Avenue Road is closed from Bloor Street West to Davenport Road.
  • Dundas Street West is closed from Spadina Avenue to Yonge Street.
  • Avenue Road from Dupont Street to Bloor Street West.
  • Lowther Avenue from Avenue Road to Spadina Road.

These people, with a child in a stroller, were among protesters in Toronto calling for an end to COVID-19 mandates. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

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