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anti lockdown toronto

Dozens of charges laid at anti-lockdown protests in Toronto over the weekend

People opposed to pandemic lockdown have been protesting forced business closures and other provincial measures every Saturday in Toronto for months now, but this weekend's demonstrations felt notably different, with multiple arrests made and charges laid.

It was the first of such rallies since Ontario issued a formal stay-at-home order and vowed to ramp up enforcement of new, more stringent rules it just added to the blanket provincewide shutdown that's been in effect since Boxing Day.

New infection numbers in the province have continued to hover around 3,000 among a population of 14.5 million for weeks now — higher than in the first wave — despite all lockdown restrictions.

Hundreds congregating en masse in Yonge-Dundas Square and Nathan Phillips Square on Jan. 16 despite a provincewide gathering limit of just five people outdoors encountered heavy police presence right off the bat, and three individuals — two organizers and one participant who allegedly assaulted an officer — were swiftly arrested and criminally charged amid the two events.

Another 18 people were fined for defying orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection and Reopening Ontario Acts.

"While we recognize the right to lawful protest, the existing emergency orders prohibit large gatherings of more than five people," Toronto police said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.

"As a result of these orders, we are enhancing our enforcement when it comes to large gatherings. Officers will be dispersing attendees and issuing tickets as appropriate."

After the hubbub on Saturday, a motorcade for the same cause organized by The Line Canada proceeded to take place the following day, driving from Don Mills Road across the Danforth, through the city and ending at the Scarborough Town Centre in what was thankfully a lot more tame and socially distanced demonstration.

Full lockdown including the closure of businesses offering personal care services, bars, restaurants, retail stores and more aside from pickup and delivery service has been in effect in Toronto for eight weeks now.

Multiple retailers have petitioned and launched legal action as a result, calling the rules unfair and noting that health data shows "retail shoppers are not contributing to COVID-19 spread in any significant way."

Hair salons in the city, meanwhile, have likewise shown with numbers how little their settings contribute to virus spread in their call to be permitted to reopen for amended operations.

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