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Niagara-on-the-Lake man charged after incident with horse-drawn carriage protestor

A Niagara-on-the-Lake man is facing charges for assault and theft just days after police said a feud between protestors and supporters of horse-drawn carriages in town were coming dangerously close to breaking the law.

Police say a member of the public has been charged with assault and theft

A Niagara-on-the-Lake man is facing an assault and theft charge for stealing a protestor's phone and sign. (Sentineal Carriages)

A Niagara-on-the-Lake man is facing charges for assault and theft just days after police said a feud between protestors and supporters of horse-drawn carriages in town were coming dangerously close to breaking the law.

The charges, announced today, stem from an incident on Saturday.

Police say someone reported an assault near King Street and Picton Street, an area full of old, colonial buildings that hosts the Shaw Festival.

Officers say a male protestor and a member of the public had an "interaction" and that they recovered a cell phone and a sign that was property of the protestor.

Roughly 45 minutes before the incident, police say the protestor approached a horse-drawn carriage and "expressed his concerns to the member of the public's family who had been riding" in the carriage.

While the Niagara-on-the-Lake man faces assault and theft charges, no one was injured.

The man, police say, turned himself in but was released after promising to appear for a future court date.

Niagara police inspector Jim McCaffery told CBC News on Wednesday that officers have spent three years trying to rein in the conflict between At War for Animals Niagara and another group called Locals for Carriages.

At War for Animals is a group fighting to end speciesism, the idea that humans are superior to animals and therefore have the authority to decide the rights of animals. Locals for Carriages formed as a response to At War for Animals, which is unpopular among locals.

In late June 2019, At War for Animals projected messages onto the town's World War I memorial clocktower, which featured an image of a horse after an accident.

The group later apologized and laid a wreath at the clock tower, saying they did not realize the entire clock tower was a memorial.

Niagara Regional Police considered mischief charges, but  said the act did not meet the threshold of criminality, because the intent was to educate — not cause lasting damage.

The police have also tried to get both parties to establish a "good faith agreement" and be civil in public. 

McCaffery also said the social media exchanges between the groups were "coming really close to criminal acts."

with files from Laura Howells

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