Anti-hat and pro-hat protesters clashed at Ryerson on Tuesday.

Photo: Chris Blanchette

Anti-hats rally crashed by pro-hats protesters

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By Skyler Ash

A rally took a turn for the worst when a group of protesters turned up Tuesday on Gould Street. Toronto Police Services (TPS) were called to break up what became a riot that ended with the arrest of two students.   

Hats Off to You (HOTY), a student group of hat-haters, were holding a rally to encourage people to “remove their hats and regain their dignity.” Elliot Canby, fourth-year fashion student and president of HOTY, said that all was going well until their oppositional group, Hats on Hats on Hats (HHH), crashed their rally to hold a pro-hats protest.

“Let’s face it,” said Canby, “Nobody looks good in hats.” Canby said he started the group back in 2014 when he was thrift shopping in Kensington Market with his friend, Georgia Prayne. “I tried on a bowler hat so hideous, so fowl, so faux-pas that I decided right then and there I would never again wear hats.”

“He said that if he couldn’t enjoy hats, then nobody should,” said Prayne, co-president of HOTY. “I always kind of liked hats. Heck, I still do. I’m not really sure why I’m even a part of this group, actually.”

The rally was held at 11 a.m. by Lake Devo, where all 13 members of HOTY stood around a funeral pyre that they threw hats into. The large flames drew a crowd of about 50 students and staff who began to chant “burn the witch.” When Canby told them they were just burning hats the crowd quickly parted.

“It looked like a witch burning,” said Eunice Krank, a Ryerson mathematics professor. “I was excited, I haven’t seen anything like that since my youth. Felt like home.” When Krank discovered that it was not a witch burning, she left to go get a burrito. “If they aren’t burning witches then it’s not worth my time.”

The HHH protestors turned up around 12:45 p.m. with large water hoses and boxes full of hats. All 17 members of the HHH held the 50 foot hose began to put out the pyre, which is when the HOYT members began to charge forward and attack the HHH.

“We just came as a joke,” said Jaqueline Ire, HHH president. “But when Elliot came up and knocked my Gucci off of my head, I saw red and there was no turning back.”

After 30 minutes of “screaming, punching rigmarole” the TPS were called and arrested Canby and Prayne. Canby and Prayne were arrested for obstruction of fashion and will face up to two years of community services. “We’re thinking of sending them to volunteer in a local hat factory,” said TPS officer John Johnson.

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