A CityNews camera operator was kicked out of Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday by a police officer and told they were “not essential” while gathering footage of the police presence in the square.
Over the past several months, anti-lockdown protests have been held in the square on Saturdays. Last week, there was a heavy police presence due to the stay-at-home order which resulted in the arrest of the organizer and two others.
The CityNews camera operator was gathering footage of the police presence Saturday in anticipation of gatherings that exceed the province’s five-person limit when he was told he had to leave the square.
“Media at this point in time is not an essential service in the square so we can’t have you come and gather and stay for a while and loiter unless it’s for an essential reason,” the camera operator was informed by the officer.
When asked when media was declared not an essential service, the officer responded, “I can’t tell you the exact date when that started or anything like that I’m just telling you the information I’m provided and that I’m acting on today.”
The camera operator was told they would be given a ticket and fined if they did not leave the square. The camera operator left shortly after the interaction.
CityNews contacted the Toronto Police Service and they confirmed news personnel are considered essential workers.
Const. Rob Reid confirmed media are allowed to attend the square provided they follow proper pandemic protocols (PPE, social distancing) and officers on the ground were being notified that they cannot limit media.
The camera operator was wearing a mask and was not within six feet of anyone until the police officer approached.
Reid also told CityNews they were not the first to call with this kind of concern.
Police say 10 people were taken into custody following several large gatherings including ones at Nathan Phillips Square, Yonge-Dundas Square, and Queen’s Park.
Seven people are facing a total of 12 charges ranging from obstructing a peace officer, assault, public mischief and common nuisance. Among them 38-year-old Christopher Siccoccia – also known as “Chris Sky” – who has been a regular attendee at a number of anti-mask, anti-lockdown protests. Siccoccia is facing four counts of public mischief and a charge of common nuisence.
Siccoccia was previously charged for attending a Sept. 2020 anti-mask rally at Yonge-Dundas Square and once again in Oct. 2020 for violating the quarantine act by attending a rally in Toronto less than 14 days after arriving back home from Europe.
An additional nine charges were laid against attendees at the gatherings for failing to comply with the provincial emergency orders, and three charges were laid under the Highway Traffic Act.