The Criminal Lawyers’ Association and Women In Canadian Criminal Defence (WICCD) are criticizing the arrest of a Toronto-based lawyer near an Ontario Progressive Conservative campaign stop in Hamilton last Thursday.
“We are alarmed that any citizen, let alone a member of our profession, would be treated by police — seemingly on behalf of an elected official — with such disregard for the electoral process and the right to exercise free speech. Both are cornerstones of our democracy,” read the joint statement released Monday.
Sa’d said last week she tried to enter a rally for PC Leader Doug Ford near the Hamilton airport. She said she RSVP’d to attend the event, but staff didn’t allow her inside and they called the police on her for trespassing.
She was eventually arrested before being released off the property and given a ticket for trespassing.
Hamilton police initially said she was arrested for blocking off a road and being on private property amid a protest.
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Sa’d and the group that organized the protest said that wasn’t true. They said she was not part of the group protesting and was arrested well before any protest occurred.
Sa’d said she believes she wasn’t allowed entry into the event and was eventually arrested because of her criticism of Ford and other political leaders. She has a large social media presence for her cartoons and videos that criticize politicians and people protesting public health measures.
On Monday afternoon, Hamilton police released a “clarification,” saying Sa’d was asked to leave the event and when she didn’t comply, she was arrested, released off property and fined for trespassing.
“After looking more closely at the incident, we felt a clarification was necessary with respect to the reason for the arrest,” police spokesperson Jackie Penman told CBC Hamilton, adding the matter is before the courts.
Penman said officers acted under the Trespass to Property Act. She didn’t answer questions about whether officers made their own assessment before making the arrest or if they were acting solely on a complaint by PC or event representatives.
The PC Party declined to answer questions from CBC Hamilton both Monday and last week about the incident.
‘Chilling effect’ on BIPOC communities: law groups
When asked about the incident at a Friday campaign stop, Ford did not directly address the question of whether he supported the arrest or ticket.
“I want to thank the Hamilton police. They always have a challenging job,” he said in response.
The lawyers’ association and WICCD said Sa’d has never been violent when attending political rallies and other events, but has been asked to leave PC gatherings in the past.
They say that shows she was refused entry and ultimately charged because her political views don’t align with the PCs.
“Those who seek public office must remember the will of the people and the right to political dissent. We reject the use of the criminal justice system, a blunt tool, as a method of stifling such dissent,” said the law groups.
They also said the fact Sa’d is a woman of colour will have a “chilling effect” on equity-seeking communities.
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