Chaos erupts between anti-maskers and residents at Chris Sky event in Toronto
Toronto's Kensington-Chinatown is still reeling this week after a public debate event — which included prominent lockdown and mask opponent Chris Sky — took over the public space in front of a shopping centre and cultural hub on Saturday.
Residents and organizations warned one another in the days leading up to the rally, which was billed as a community action event that "was supposed to feature diverse voices at variance with the anti-mask/vaxx movement" in front of the Chinatown Centre on Spadina south of Dundas.
It was also meant to mark the opening of a new "weed-friendly outdoor comedy venue" called 420 Cannabis Court, which led to some confusion about the nature of the talk.
The event was organized by local lawyer and activist Caryma Sa'd, who was to interview Sky given the duo's online beef with one another — but community members feared that having the face of the Canadian anti-vax movement on the premises and providing him with any sort of platform would not go over well.
The event was especially concerning given the fact that there have been some barriers to vaccination for the neighbourhood, which has become one of the priority areas in Toronto for getting first and second doses administered.
Friends of Chinatown wrote in a social media posts late last week that Sky and those surrounding him and his movement are also "known for their overlapping participation in white-supremacist, Holocaust-denying, racist circles."
UPDATE: Please warn your friends and neighbours to stay away from Chinatown Centre.— Friends of Chinatown TO (@chinatownFOCT) July 11, 2021
Large group of people (including a known inciter of racist violence) is still hanging out at the top of the stairs.
These are the people that verbally threatened violence on community tonight. pic.twitter.com/UVBwTdEw66
Worries about the risks posed to community members swirled as the event proceeded despite some pushback from the public and a noted lack of permission from the mall itself.
Community activists quickly arrived on scene for "a no-engagement, no-violence occupation of the space," accounts from the event read, while members from the anti-mask crowd likewise showed to watch Sky speak.
Attendees who documented the affair on social media cited belligerence and aggression from the anti-masker camp — who surrounded Sky like a celebrity — as well as confrontations between members of the crowd, some of whom had formed a blockade to prevent Sky from speaking.
Sky arrived to take the stage around 10 p.m., though Sa'd was allegedly nowhere to be seen. Some accounts state that she had retreated into her building, where she had hoped to conduct the interview instead given the tensions in the courtyard.
As they were in the garden, you could hear them yelling things to the effect like: “WHERE IS SHE!?”, “CARYMA!!! WHERE ARE YOU????”. Sky then signalled to his group upstairs “COME DOWN HERE” and that’s when that crowd really started to get amped up.— sega_vek (@sega_vek) July 11, 2021
The whole ordeal turned somewhat violent as both sides clashed, leading community demonstrators to eventually evacuate the scene and police to arrive.
Apparently the anti-mask crowd, some of whom were making comments about Sa'd "hiring ANTIFA" to boycott Sky's appearance, stayed back for some time, with witnesses stating they were still present as of 11:30 p.m.
We are absolutely appalled by the anti-mask, anti-vaxx rally that took place in Kensington Chinatown, against the will of the residents there. As if that weren’t bad enough, they invited known & prominent racist, Chris Sky, then proceeded to blame Chinatown for violence.— LiberAsian (@liberasianldn) July 11, 2021
"They set me up with 50 armed antifa with a barricade? Lol you think that could stop me?" Sky himself wrote on Twitter shortly before 1 a.m. today.
Sa'd herself has publicly blamed Friends of Chinatown for the conflict that unfolded.
"You turned an event that was supposed to feature diverse voices at variance with the anti-mask/vaxx movement into a Chris Sky rally," she wrote on Twitter around 11 p.m. Saturday, along with a video clip that appears to be taken from inside Chinatown Centre, looking onto the disturbance.
"He was never going to be 'platformed' in the context of my event. Your so-called counter protest created violence."
Congratulations @chinatownFOCT, you turned an event that was supposed to feature diverse voices at variance with the anti-mask/vaxx movement into a Chris Sky rally.— Caryma Sa'd - Lawyer (@CarymaRules) July 11, 2021
He was never going to be “platformed” in the context of my event. Your so-called counter protest created violence. pic.twitter.com/QeiN5alBhM
They set me up with 50 armed antifa with a barricade? Lol you think that could stop me? pic.twitter.com/F81HoU96EJ— Chris Sky (@chrissaccoccia1) July 11, 2021
Sa'd explained her motivations for the event prior to the evening, saying that "necessary precautions" were going to be taken.
"As we've seen time & again, it isn’t possible to debate (or even converse with) someone like Chris Sky. But I want to try breaking into the echo chamber in my way," she wrote on Instagram.
She is now facing some hefty backlash online, and claimed yesterday that she will be releasing a formal statement on the incident "when I'm less heated."
"Please know that I'm not reading any of your tweets, so go ahead and spout off," she continued in a tweet on Sunday evening. "There is a lot more to this situation than meets the eye, including mall politics at the Chinatown Centre."
Join the conversation Load comments