Charges Dropped Against 4 In Indigo Bookstore Vandalism, As Protesters Decry Police Action | CBC News

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Crown drops charges against 4 accused in Indigo bookstore vandalismCharges have been dropped against four of the 11 people charged with mischief and criminal harassment, which police called “hate-motivated,” after an Indigo bookstore was vandalized last fall.

Toronto police charged 11 people with ‘hate-motivated’ mischief in November 2023Jane Gerster · CBC News

· Posted: May 22, 2024 9:48 AM EDT | Last Updated: May 22

Karl Gardner speaks at a protest outside Toronto police headquarters on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Gardner is one of four people whose charges, in connection with the vandalization of an Indigo bookstore last fall, were dropped on May 17. (Chris Glover/CBC)The Crown has dropped charges against four of the 11 people charged with mischief and criminal harassment, which police called “hate-motivated,” after an Indigo bookstore was vandalized last fall.

Seven other people are still being prosecuted in connection with the Nov. 10, 2023, vandalism of the Indigo bookstore at Bay and Bloor streets, which included a number of posters accusing CEO Heather Reisman, who is Jewish, of funding genocide, while red paint was also splashed across a glass door.

At the time, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies called it “a vile antisemitic attack,” while dozens of protesters gathered outside 52 Division to object to the charges, saying Reisman had been targeted for her political activity and not because she is Jewish.

That point was underscored Wednesday during another protest outside Toronto police headquarters, where activists — as well as one of the accused and another of the accused’s lawyers — called for all charges to be dropped, describing them as an attempt to distract from the Israel-Hamas war.

WATCH | Charges aren’t warranted, protester says:

Posters and washable paint used in Indigo store vandalism did not call for ‘absurd’ charges: demonstratorThe Crown’s remaining charges against seven people related to an Indigo store that was vandalized in downtown Toronto last November are “absurd,” considering the vandalism consisted of posters and washable paint, says Karl Gardner, one of four demonstrators whose charges were dropped. Gardner said he lost his job over the allegations. CBC’s Chris Glover has the latest.

“The majority of them were awoken in the middle of the night to upwards of 10 police officers who had broken into their apartments and handcuffed them,” Rachel Small, an organizer with World Beyond War, told the gathering.

“Their apartments were raided, ransacked, front doors were left dangling off their hinges, their computers and cellphones were confiscated … and this for what?” Small said.

“It seems clear that police were attempting to put a chill on and to intimidate the rapidly-expanding Palestine solidarity movement six months ago in Toronto.”

A spokesperson for the Toronto police told CBC Toronto that “judicially authorized search warrants were conducted by TPS on residences and vehicles in Toronto as part of this investigation,” and that “a warrant to search will only be issued if the author can demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds to do so.”

Rachel Small with World Beyond War speaks at a protest outside Toronto police headquarters on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Chris Glover/CBC)In a statement shared via Toronto police, the Crown called the case “a complex prosecution” involving 11 people and 30 charges. 

“This decision should not be seen as a criticism of the police determination that there were reasonable grounds for the arrests of these four individuals,” the Crown said.

Activist ‘undeterred’ after charges droppedOutside police headquarters Wednesday, Karl Gardner identified himself publicly as one of the four people whose charges were dropped on May 17.

“The posters and paint found at Indigo were washed away easily that day, but the impact of the Toronto police’s criminalization will linger for a long time yet,” Gardner said.

“I stand here undeterred, as someone who lost all employment because of these bogus charges. This has harmed my reputation, my livelihood, my career, my mental health and well-being, and these don’t just end because my charges have been withdrawn.”

Protest calls for all charges to be dropped

Police initially charged 11 people following vandalism at an Indigo bookstore in November 2023. Protesters who dispute the arrests are seen outside 52 Division that same month. The charges against four people have now been dropped. (Ken Townsend/CBC)The executive director of the United Jewish People’s Order said the criminal charges are a “mislabeling and weaponizing [of] antisemitism.” 

“As Jews, we know calling out companies that support Israeli war crimes is a legitimate form of protest. Targeting Indigo is not antisemitic,” said Sarena Salran, who is also a member of Jews Say No To Genocide, outside police headquarters.

In December, a Toronto police spokesperson told CBC Toronto the case was being treated as a possible hate crime because “the victim was specifically targeted because they are (or are perceived to be) Jewish, which meets the criteria of an identifiable group.”

 A spokesperson for Indigo did not immediately return a request for comment from CBC Toronto on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, the Crown said in its statement that it remains “committed to ensuring these allegations receive the resources and attention deserving of these alleged offences that have had a widespread impact on our community, and the specific complainant in this matter.”   

Toronto police spokesperson Stephanie Sayer said in an emailed statement Wednesday morning that the force “will persist in enforcing hate crime laws and laying charges when justified, ensuring the safety and security of our communities.”

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