Police investigating alleged racist incident caught on camera at London, Ont. grocery store
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Friday, July 20, 2018 4:43PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 20, 2018 7:13PM EDT
Police in London, Ont. say their hate crime unit is investigating an altercation between two men at a local grocery store.
In a now widely-shared Facebook video, a man appears to be blocking the path of another man at the checkout area of a Sobeys.
A man in a red shirt holds a phone to his ear while preventing a man in a hoodie from leaving the store.
The video, posted by Facebook user Katie Pocasangre Montoya on July 17, has since been viewed nearly two million times.
In her post, Montyoa claims the man in the red shirt called the other an “illegal alien” and demanded to see his “Canadian documentation.”
The man in the hoodie can be heard saying “don’t touch me” and “I want to leave, stop assaulting me” while the other man continues to obstruct his path.
Const. Michelle Romano said there was some sort of argument between the two inside the store before the altercation at the checkout, though it’s unclear what it was about.
Despite this, she said the actions of the man in the red shirt are “quite disturbing.”
“That’s why our hate crime unit is looking into the matter,” she said. “Currently, we’re investigating the incident as a possible hate-motivated crime.”
Police received multiple calls from customers in the store about the altercation while it was going on. Once they arrived and spoke to the men, police said both the men “left the store peacefully.”
Romano said the victim chose not to press charges.
“We work on a victim-centered approach, so the victim has made those choices and we’ve respected that,” she said. “However there are serious concerns as to what happened, so the unit will determine if, at all, there are any changes to be made.”
Customers at the Sobeys on Friday described the actions in the video as “absurd” and “shocking.”
“The guy had no reason to do that and as far as I’m concerned, that guy has rights too,” one man said. “I don’t know why he did that but it’s not right, no matter what.”
“It’s shocking that something like that could happen in your own backyard,” said another customer. “I’m at a loss for words as to exactly what to think about it all. The question you want to ask is, what would you do if that were you witnessing that?”
According to Statistics Canada, there has been an average of 1,360 police-reported hate crime incidents across the country each year since 2009. But the agency’s 2014 survey on victimization also found that only one-third of respondents who said they were victims of hate-motivate crimes told the authorities.
Romano echoed that, saying police believe many hate crimes go unreported.
“We want to encourage people that if they feel they’ve been a victim of anything like this to report it,” she said. “The stats are proving it’s on the rise.”