RSU and Rye student being sued over assault at anti-choice protest

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By Jonathan Bradley

A Ryerson student and the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) are being sued by Toronto Against Abortion (TAA), following the assault of two anti-choice protesters in October 2018.

TAA issued a statement on Feb. 19, saying they have filed a civil lawsuit against a Ryerson arts and contemporary studies student—who was also a member of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective (RRJC)—and the RSU for the assault in small claims court. TAA is seeking $23,000 in damages from the student and the RSU. 

RSU president Vanessa Henry and the RRJC declined to comment. 

The student being sued declined to comment, but according to TAA’s statement, they denied allegations of assault or battery in the civil lawsuit. 

The Eyeopener chose not to include the student’s name for privacy reasons and safety concerns.

Katie Somers, one of the TAA members who was assaulted, said she believes this lawsuit will deter people from assaulting anti-choice protestors. 

“I hope that it will send a message to the general public and especially individuals at Ryerson who…escalate their behaviour to uncomfortable levels,” said Somers.

In 2018, Laura Salamanca, a counsellor and advocate at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, explained to The Eyeopener the complex effects that anti-abortion signs can have on people.

“When there are people out there narrowing down somebody’s experience to this one outcome and then displaying very gory images that don’t accurately represent that, then that can bring up unexplored feelings in a person that can be very traumatizing for them and it can feel very triggering,” she said.

The Eyeopener previously reported that anti-choice protesters plan to display their graphic signs on Ryerson campus until 2030—and some of them are being paid to do it.

In 2017, Blaise Alleyne, the founder of the TAA and the Eastern Outreach Director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) said as many as a dozen protesters are being paid to stand on Ryerson campus as part of a campaign to start discussion and debate on reproductive rights.

TAA said it is suing the RSU because they manage the RRJC. The RSU is named in the lawsuit for failing to curtail escalating violence and alleged criminal activity committed by RRJC members. 

In October 2018, The Eyeopener reported that Toronto Police Services were investigating the alleged attack after a video of the rally on Victoria and Gould streets was shared by TAA. 

Somers alleged she suffered physical injuries and that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The student was charged with assault and assault with a weapon. They pled guilty to assault in June 2019 and were sentenced to 18 months of probation. 

TAA’s statement said that Ryerson suspended the student for eight months and restricted them from communicating and accessing campus. 

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