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Crown drops charges against 4 accused in Indigo bookstore vandalism

The Crown has dropped charges against four of the 11 people charged with hate-motivated crimes 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 during a protest Wednesday morning outside Toronto police headquarters, where activists — as well as one of the accused and another of the accused’s lawyers — spoke about the charges, calling them “trumped up” and an attempt to distract from the Israel-Hamas war.

“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,” Rachel Small, an organizer with World Beyond War, told the gathering. 

“This city has risen up despite six months of police repression,” Small said.

“We’ve seen marches, thousands strong, criss-cross this city every week … bringing together Jews, Palestinians, people of all ages in our community centres, our parks, to pray and fly kites and sign petitions and sing and march and cry together.”

Rachel Small with World Beyond War speaks at a protest outside Toronto police headquarters on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.
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 dropped

Outside 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.”

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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