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Toronto restaurateur fed up with anti-vaccine protesters who scream at guests and staff

A group of anti-vaccine protesters and police are seen outside one of Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg's establishments. (Twitter/Jen Agg)
A group of anti-vaccine protesters and police are seen outside one of Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg's establishments. (Twitter/Jen Agg)

A Toronto restaurateur whose businesses have been the target of anti-vaccine protests in recent weeks is calling on the city and the province to do more to protect small businesses from what she describes as harassment.

In a series of posts published to Twitter on Sunday, Jen Agg writes that two of her several restaurants in the city have been attended by “loud, misguided, hugely invasive anti-vaxxers” on Saturday night for weeks.

“I am in shock that [Toronto Mayor] John Tory and [Ontario Premier] Doug Ford are leaving us to deal with this—zero help from cops, by-laws or…anything at all. An abandonment of leadership,” she writes.

In videos accompanying the tweets, protesters can be seen on the sidewalks in front of Rhum Corner and Bar Vendetta, near Dundas and Grace streets in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood, shouting, banging pots and pans, and holding signs that decry the use of a vaccine passport as police standby and watch.

“This is not a peaceful protest, despite the cops insisting it is,” writes Agg.

“Restaurants have been through enough! They are disruptive to my neighbours, scream at our wonderful, supportive guests and  staff and chant my name while yelling I’m a ‘Nazi, racist piece of **** queen bigot’ for hours.”

Although Agg makes clear that her businesses are not requesting vaccine certification, it was her public support for the use of vaccine passports in July which appears to have triggered the onslaught of protests.

“We are not even requesting vaccine certification! (Which is the crux of their complaint) We aren’t doing indoor dining! Just trying to operate our business safely and protect our staff/guests,” Agg writes.

In a series of follow up tweets published on Monday, Agg once again called on Ford to show his support for local businesses that are being targeted by protesters, especially those within the restaurant industry.

“If Premier Ford wants to protect businesses, then he needs to step up and do that! Leaving us to fend for ourselves while these clowns cause chaos and prevent us from properly utilizing the CafeTO patios designed to help us get on our feet after a terrible 17 months is appalling,” Agg said.

Agg went on to call out the Toronto Police Service for failing to prevent the harassment she says she and her businesses have been subject to.

The tweets have since been liked and retweetwed hundreds of times, with even TV star Dan Levy weighing in.

“Disturbing the peace, violating patrons’ personal space, and actively sabotaging the livelihood of restaurant owners? Something needs to be done, Toronto,” wrote Levy, while tagging Tory and Ford.

Toronto police told CTV News Toronto in an email that upon the arrival of officers at the scene of the protest it was discovered that two separate groups of demonstrators had become involved in a "heated disagreement."

"Officers separated both groups and people were allowed to continue to protest peacefully," said spokesperson Connie Osborne.

"Police remained on scene to monitor the situation, ensure the safety of everyone and keep the peace. Pedestrians were able to pass on the sidewalk and several protesters were cautioned for language. No arrests were made and the protestors later dispersed," she said. 

Vaccine passports have been a hot topic in recent weeks with different province’s taking various approaches to documenting proof of vaccination.

In Quebec, for example, vaccine passports are less than two weeks away for anyone who wants to eat at a restaurant, exercise in gym, or engage in any other non-essential activity.

Conversely, Ford has consistently punted the issue to the federal government, claiming he doesn’t want to create “split society.”

The feds say that vaccine passports for foreign travel should be expected by the fall and while not intended for domestic use, provinces could use the tool if they so choose.

Meanwhile, Mayor John Tory has voiced his support for a “provincewide proof-of-vaccination system,” which he said would be the “best thing we can do right now” to keep businesses open during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Although he has not responded directly to Agg’s claims, Tory issued a statement Monday denouncing the behaviour she described.

“It's totally unacceptable for people under the guise of protest to disrupt Toronto restaurants and other businesses and mistreat and harass their customers,” Tory wrote.

“Elected officials don't direct police enforcement but I do believe there does come a time when protest crosses the line into mischief and harassment. That is one of the challenges of policing but I did bring it to the attention of Toronto Police Chief Ramer today.”

Tory reiterated his call for a proof of vaccination system while pointing to the more than 75 per cent of eligible residents who have received at least one dose.

“The facts speak for themselves – 98.7 per cent of those hospitalized in Toronto with COVID-19 in recent months were not fully vaccinated,” he said.

The premier’s office has not responded to CTV News Toronto’s request for comment. Top Stories

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