Police broke up two large gatherings of anti-lockdown protesters in downtown Toronto on Saturday and arrested three people, including the organizers, as authorities step up enforcement of gathering restrictions and the provincial stay-at-home order.

Videos posted on social media show hundreds of demonstrators marching through the streets, condemning public health measures and denouncing the COVID-19 pandemic. Police said officers dispersed demonstrators who gathered at Nathan Phillips Square and Yonge-Dundas Square.

“Our officers were deployed to those areas to ensure public safety. And as a result of our officers being out there, we have three people that were arrested and charged,” Const. Alex Li said.

Toronto protest

The organizers, who police identified as 49-year-old Lamont Daigle and 38-year-old Kelly Anne Farkus (Wolfe), were charged with common nuisance.

An officer was allegedly assaulted at Yonge-Dundas Square, police said. As a result, 22-year-old Conor Chappell was charged with assaulting a police officer and obstructing police.

Police said a total of 18 fail to comply with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act charges were laid at the demonstration at Yonge-Dundas Square.

“Our officers will be on scene for any of these protests. Any large gatherings of more than five people, we will have uniform presence there, and charges will be laid if necessary,” Li said.

Toronto arrest

The protest, which has been happening weekly since the fall, is in contravention with a new restriction that prohibits outdoor public gatherings and social gatherings of more than five people.

“We’re appealing and urging for public and citizens to just please do your part and stay at home. Protect yourselves, protect the broader community,” Li said.

MORE: What is considered essential activity under Ontario's new emergency stay at home order

The new gathering limit came into effect earlier this week, as is the order requiring residents only to leave their homes for essential purposes. The province also declared a second state of emergency.

Ahead of the protest, Toronto police issued a statement to Twitter, reiterating that they would be present at any large gatherings to enforce the orders. While police respect people’s right to peacefully protest, Li said it changes when there is an emergency order in place.

“As stated before, by the (police) chief and other government officials, this is no longer just a public health issue. It’s a public safety issue. So, we will do what we need to do to ensure that the public is safe, and our officers will be out about and enforcing these regulations,” he said.

Toronto Public Health reported 975 new COVID-19 cases and 25 more deaths on Saturday.