Four arrested in blockade of Hamilton People’s Party event, including son of Syrian restaurant owners
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2019 11:09AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 23, 2019 6:27PM EDT
Police in Hamilton have arrested four people, including the son of owners of a Toronto Syrian restaurant, after a protest outside a People’s Party of Canada event in Hamilton last month.
On Sept. 29, a group of protesters encircled Mohawk College’s McIntyre Performing Arts Centre, where the far-right People’s Party of Canada was to hold a political rally.
Videos of the incident, which have been circulating online, showed several protesters harassing an elderly woman outside Mohawk College, where the event was held on Sept. 29.
One protester reportedly called the woman “Nazi scum” and stuck a foot in front of her walker to prevent her from entering the building.
Social media users accused Alaa Alsoufi, a Syrian migrant whose parents own Soufi’s restaurant on Queen Street West, of being one of the people who blocked the elderly woman from entering.
The ensuing social media storm resulted in the man and his parents, Husam and Shahnaz, receiving death threats.
They decided to close their restaurant as a result, filing a hate crime complaint with Toronto police.
The parents confirmed their son attended the protest at Mohawk College on Sept. 29 but denied that he verbally or physically assaulted the elderly woman.
Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih eventually stepped in, offering his staff to help reopen the restaurant while the family took some private time to recover from the ordeal.
In the meantime, Hamilton police said they continued an investigation into the incident.
“Hamilton Police further reviewed numerous hours of video from a number of sources including media and social media footage. As a result, several criminal offences and suspects were identified,” officers said in a statement on Wednesday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, three men, including 27-year-old Alsoufi, were arrested and charged.
Alsoufiwas charged with two counts of intimidation, two counts of disguise with intent to commit indictable offence,and causing a disturbance.
Another man, identified as Kevin Metcalf, 33, of Toronto, was charged with one count of obstructing police.
A third man, 30-year-old Maximiliano Herrera,of Hamilton, was charged with one count of intimidation and one count of assault.
All three men are expected to appear at a Hamilton courthouse on Wednesday for a bail hearing.
A fourth suspect, a 23-year-old woman was arrested on Wednesday afternoon, police said.
Speaking on Oct. 11,Alsoufi’sfather said that he thought his son made a “mistake.”
He added that he was in contact with the adult son of the elderly woman who was blocked and harassed, and wished to meet with them and possibly have their family eat at his restaurant.
The son posted on Twitter that they met on Oct. 12:
Investigators say there are two other victims of assaults that occurred outside the event who they have not yet been able to make contact with.
In one instance, they say a male victim who was filming the event on his cell phone was assaulted. In another instance, a woman had the hat knocked off of her head by a suspect.
Hamilton police also said they arrested four other people at the scene of the protest that day and all were later released unconditionally.
The People’s Party of Canada is a far-right party founded by former Harper-era cabinet minister Maxime Bernier.
Bernier, who came second in a Conservative leadership contest to replace Harper, advocated that Canadian immigration levels be cut roughly in half and that future migrants be subject to an in-person values “test” or interview before they are deemed admissible to Canada.
Along with all 337 other candidates the party ran in Monday’s federal election, Bernier failed to secure a seat in the House of Commons.