Three people were arrested after protesters splashed paint on statues of Egerton Ryerson and John A. Macdonald in downtown Toronto on Saturday morning, police said.
Around 35 protesters surrounded the statue of Ryerson at Ryerson University, near Bond and Gould Streets, and hurled pink paint at it. A banner placed around the base of the statue said, “Tear down monuments that represent slavery, colonialism, and violence.”
A statue of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, was also defaced by a group of around 60 protesters at Queen’s Park. A photograph posted to social media showed Black Lives Matter protesters pouring pink paint on the statue.
A video posted online on Saturday morning appeared to show demonstrators being detained by police at Queen’s Park.
Toronto police later confirmed that three people had been arrested and charged with mischief.
Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, told the Star that protesters under the banner of Black Lives Matter were calling for the “defunding of police, and an end to white supremacy and anti-black racism.
“As protesters, we’re concerned that these statues and emblems of racism are still taking up space in our city.”
The protest moved to Toronto police’s 52 Division to “demand the immediate release” of the those arrested, Diverlus said. Around 150 people were staging a peaceful sit-in next to the station on Saturday afternoon, with a big banner in front of the station reading, “Let them go now.”
On Twitter, lawyer Saron Gebresellassi said she had been unable to consult with, or even locate, the detained protesters in the hours after the arrests.
“My client is being detained without charges and without a lawyer,” she wrote.
Black Lives Matter Toronto announced at around 4 p.m. that legal contact had been made with the three people detained, nearly four hours after they were arrested.
Police said Daniel Gooch, 35, and Danielle Smith, 47, both of Toronto, were later released, while Jenna Reid, 35, also of Toronto, was detained and will appear in court Sunday. But Gebresellassi told CP24 late Saturday that all three were still in custody.
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Minutes later, police tweeted the three individuals “declined to sign the release forms to leave custody. They will be released as soon as they sign, and we would like them to do so.”
In 2018, Victoria, B.C., city council voted to remove a statue of Macdonald from outside city hall, citing the decision as a “gesture of reconciliation.”
Ryerson, for whom the downtown Toronto university is named, was a proponent of residential schools that sought to, often violently, force Indigenous children to assimilate into Canadian culture.
A petition popped up earlier this summer imploring the university’s administration to remove the statue. The petition now has nearly 9,000 signatures.