Windsor

Online threat against family sent to man who posted thoughts on anti-lockdown march

After a man posted his thoughts about a march against COVID-19 restrictions, he was sent a threat against his family — but an organizer of the march says he doesn't believe the message is real.

'Nobody from our march would say or send that type of message,' march organizer says

Stephen Hargreaves stands in the spot on Ouellette ave where he snapped a picture of the anti-lockdown march he saw just over two weeks ago. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A man who posted his thoughts about a recent march against Windsor's COVID-19 restrictions was later sent an online threat against his family.

An organizer of the march said he doesn't believe the message is real or that it came from his group.

"It's absolutely unacceptable, you cannot threaten to rape people," Stephen Hargreaves, who received the threatening message said. "It's that simple."

Hargreaves said he has filed a complaint with Windsor police and he understands an investigation is underway. Windsor police service would not confirm if any sort of investigation is ongoing.

The entire message will not be published by CBC News as it contains some very disturbing content.

"I noticed you posted an article about our parade," part of the message read adding a threat of violence to Hargreaves' family if there is "any further slander of our movement."

It was sent from an Instagram account with no followers and no posts. It was in response to a post Hargreaves made on Sunday with a picture he had taken a week prior of an anti-lockdown march, which had passed him on Ouellette Avenue.

Hargreaves disagreed with marchers use of the Romanian flag with a hole cut in it, a symbol of the Romanian revolution. (Stephen Hargreaves)

Hargreaves, whose wife is from a Romanian family and has several friends who left the country as refugees, took offence to the use by some protesters of the Romanian flag with a hole cut in it — a symbol of revolutionaries who overthrew the communist government there in 1989.

"Appropriating that symbol for an anti-mask protest is in poor taste, if nothing else," he said. "I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that that I don't think is something you should equate with their cause."

He said he believes it is an empty and veiled threat but he and his wife are taking some extra precautions.

Nobody from our march would say or send that type of message.- Darryl Burrell 

"There is some concern about 'are you ok walking downtown?', 'are you ok walking back tonight after work?" he said.

"But we're not changing our lifestyle to lock ourselves indoors to hide from a threat from an anonymous account."

Hargreaves said while he disagrees with the protester's message about masks, he recognizes their right to protest.

"I really hope that this is not systemic of that group and I hope that this is a one off person that they would not want representing their group."

Second threat

A second threat was sent Tuesday afternoon to a different individual who had posted a response to a post Hargreaves made showing the initial threat against his family member. 

This time the offensive text was sent by someone identifying themselves as: "the anti-mask guy" and contained disturbing references to violence against women.

March responds

Darryl Burrell, an organizer of the marches, said he doesn't believe the messages came from anybody in the group. 

"Nobody from our march would say or send that type of message," he said in a text-based conversation.

"We have many haters and they are all mentally ill. So anyone of them could have made and account to try and make us look bad." 

Currie Soulliere, another event organizer, said their movement wants nothing to do with extremism or threats.

She also believes the threatening messages originated with "far-left extremist" opponents to their movement trying to discredit them.

"They're scared to directly engage with our arguments, because we're right," she said. 

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

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