'I was shocked ... I couldn't believe that was being said': witness to 'illegal alien' video
Social video of confrontation at a London Sobeys store has been viewed more than 1 million times
"I heard him say he was an illegal immigrant and an alien. I was shocked," said Arden Keet, a witness to the incident at a north London grocery store that has since gone viral.
Keet was standing in line with her infant son at the checkout of the Sobeys on Adelaide Street North when a Caucasian man confronted a dark-skinned man.
Police say they were called to the store when the confrontation began. Part of the interaction was captured on video and posted on social media before officers arrived .
In the video, a man in a red T-shirt was seen preventing another man in a black hoodie from leaving the store, and calling him an "illegal alien."
"I want to leave; stop assaulting me," the man in the black hoodie says in the video.
"Don't touch him, why are you touching him?" a woman says off-camera, as the man in the red shirt approaches the man in the black hoodie.
Keet says she was disappointed that most of the people inside the store seemed to ignore the situation.
"I couldn't believe what I was hearing was actually happening in real life," she said.
"I was shocked and surprised that no one else was really that bothered by it, or upset. I was upset how the cashier said, 'Oh, he was crazy' (about the man with the backpack). That made me so angry, because if he had a mental illness or something, that doesn't make it okay for him to be assaulted."
London police have reviewed the video and say the language is concerning.
"There were words used that were obviously hurtful to the male that was involved," said London police Const. Kimberly Flett.
"We don't condone anyone using hurtful language or anything that involves any kind of hate toward any minority or any person in the city."
CBC London is asking for more information about the incident. If you know the men or witnessed the incident, please contact us.
"There was an incident involving them earlier in the store and a second incident that occurred as they were leaving the store where a physical altercation took place," said Flett.
"The males are not known to each other and we have no information to believe the victim has any concern in regards to his safety."
Sobeys responded to the incident, saying their staff are appalled by the behaviour of the aggressor in the incident, the man in the red T-shirt.
"These situations are downright scary for our store teams and customers," Jennifer McCrindle, manager of external communications at Sobeys, wrote in an email.
"The safety of our customers and our employees is our number one priority, always."
An employee had called police before the video was captured, McCrindle said. The manager on duty went to the store and repeatedly asked the man in the red T-shirt to leave.
"[The manager] was also very aware that a situation like this can escalate quickly with an agitated individual," she said.
When officers arrived on scene, the situation deescalated.
Police said the man in the red T-shirt was given warning about assault by officers. Both men left the store without injury.
It is not known what sparked the confrontation.
Reaction to the viral video
At the time of publication, the video has been viewed over 1-million times and shared by thousands of users.
Hundreds of on-line comments expressed anger, frustration and disappointment.
"I just think it's really unfortunate," a woman named Sarah told CBC News as she was shopping at the Sobeys store on Thursday morning.
"That was an act of hate on someone who really didn't deserve it and it's unfortunate that that's happening here in London."
In the spring, a report submitted to the London Police Services Board showed a rise in reported hate crimes in the city. The report said there were 64 reported incidents in 2017, compared to 40 incidents in 2016.
Of those incidents, 31 charges were laid in 2017, compared with 11 charges laid in 2016. Five incidents involved assault and seven incidents involved racial slurs.