Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pelted with gravel at an election campaign stop on Monday night after denouncing protesters as “anti-vaxxer mobs.”
As Trudeau was boarding his campaign bus after the incident in London, Ontario, journalists traveling with the Liberal Party leader posted videos of the incident. In several videos, Trudeau can be seen surrounded by campaign aides and security as protesters continue to yell at him.
As he boards the bus, the video shows what Trudeau later described as “little bits of gravel” hitting him and others.
The incident comes at a time when the national election campaign has become increasingly tense. Trudeau’s campaign canceled a public event last month due to security concerns. Many of the protesters who have been following Trudeau have expressed their displeasure with public health measures such as vaccine mandates.
Despite dozens of loud and increasingly aggressive protesters stalking his events, Trudeau said earlier Monday that he would not “back down” from campaigning.
“Yes, there is a small fringe element in this country that is angry, that doesn’t believe in science, that is lashing out with racist, misogynistic attacks,” said Trudeau while campaigning in Ontario hours before the gravel-throwing incident.
Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, has condemned aggressive protesters, saying last week that his party does not condone such behavior.
“I strongly condemn any form of harassment and protest the like we’ve seen. We’re a democracy, we should be having a healthy and respectful debate of ideas and we have no time for people who bring in negativity to campaigning,” he said during a news briefing.
After the incident, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, tweeted that, “Our learned experience should teach us two things: political violence is contagious unless stopped in its tracks with both denunciation and enforcement, and it is wrong to think “this isn’t Canada”. Unfortunately it is and it will have terrible consequences unless we face up to it”.
The snap federal election in Canada is set for September 20, and polls show that Trudeau and O’Toole’s political parties are in a tight race.
The majority of Canadians support public health initiatives, and the country now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with three out of every four eligible Canadians receiving full vaccination.
Despite this, the simmering pandemic is wreaking havoc on Canada, with case counts and hospitalizations on the rise, particularly among younger, unvaccinated Canadians, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.