Couillard rushed away from Orlando shooting vigil after disruption
Published Thursday, June 16, 2016 8:39PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 17, 2016 6:44PM EDT
Premier Philippe Couillard was rushed away by police after a disruption during a vigil for the victims of the Orlando mass shooting in Montreal’s gay village on Thursday evening.
Federal Heritage Minister Melanie Joly was also quickly removed from the scene. Esteban Torres, a member of activist group Pink Bloc and a speaker at the event, was caught on camera swinging his arm in Couillard's direction towards the end of the vigil in a surprise outburst.
According to police, Couillard was unharmed.The 20-year-old was charged with assault with a weapon and causing a disturbance.
On Friday, he appeared in court to plead not guilty and was released on $500 bail. He was given a long list of conditions as part of his bond, including a ban on communicating with the premier and anyone else involved with a political party. He was also told he cannot be involved with the Pink Bloc until his case is closed.
If convicted, Torres could face 18 months in prison.
Geste posé contre PM @phcouillard ce soir pendant vigile est inacceptable et honteux.Tout geste d'intolérance et violent est inadmissible— DenisCoderre (@DenisCoderre) June 17, 2016
Torres spoke to CTV Montreal earlier in the evening and said he was showing solidarity with those killed in Orlando.
"There was a lot of people of colour that were killed over there, and for me it's really important to stand up and say 'hey, these are people of colour that are being attacked by hate," said Torres.
"It's not only homophobia that played a part in this, but I also think it's racism. It's both that are connected."
Torres's colleague Jess Noriega-Lessard said she wasn't sure if she was "for the act or against it."
"The reason why I figure he did that is because Pink Bloc is aware there's a lot of cops around, cameras around and the people invited, politicians and stuff, take too much space," when talking about minority groups like LGBTQ," she added.
Montreal Pride Vice-President Jean-Sebastien Boudreault said he was "shocked and ashamed" by the incident. He said his organization, which co-organized the event, has been in contact with Couillard's office and that they understood Montreal Pride had nothing to do with Torres's actions. He described Pink Bloc as a left-wing organization whose members had promised to behave themselves and who were included in the spirit of inclusion.
"The idea was not to switch the focus," said Boudreault. "We have to reply to violence with love."
The incident marred what had been a peaceful commemoration of the tragic events in Orlando, during which the names of the 49 people killed at gay nightclub Pulse were read aloud.
Boudreault said the main idea of the vigil was to bring together people from all kinds of communities in solidarity against homophobica, transphobia, racism, sexism and Islamophobia.
"We all say in one voice that this needs to stop, all violence, not just against the LGBT community, but all sorts of violence needs to stop," he said.