Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was hit by little rocks Monday night as a crowd of protesters gathered around his campaign bus after an event in London, Ontario, about 120 miles southwest of Toronto. Trudeau last month called a snap election for Sept. 20, and his campaign has had several run-ins with angry opponents of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Trudeau told reporters Monday night that his shoulder "might have" been hit by "little bits of gravel," adding, "It's no big deal."
CTV National News said two reporters traveling with Trudeau were also struck by the little rocks.
Trudeau's Conservative Party challenger, Erin O'Toole, called the gravel-throwing incident "disgusting" on Twitter. "Political violence is never justified and our media must be free from intimidation, harassment, and violence," he said.
This "was the latest ugly scene in a 36-day federal election campaign that has not been short of them," The Washington Post reports. "Vandals have defaced candidate lawn signs with antisemitic graffiti. Candidates of all political stripes have reported being targeted with sexist and racist slurs." And Trudeau, who has "sought to position vaccine mandates as a wedge issue," has attracted vociferous opposition from vaccine mandate opponents who have also targeted hospitals and local government officials.
After a group of demonstrators, determined to be a security risk, prompted Trudeau to cancel a campaign event last week, he said "we all had a difficult year," including "those folks out protesting," and "we need to meet that anger with compassion." On Monday, before the rock-throwing incident, he said he won't back down before the "small finger element in this country that is angry, that doesn't believe in science, that is lashing out with racist, misogynistic attacks."
"Canadians, the vast majority of Canadians are not represented by them," Trudeau added, and they won't allow "those anti-vaxxer mobs to dictate how this country gets through this pandemic."
Canada is one of the most-vaccinated countries in the world, with nearly 68 percent of the population fully vaccinated. Polls show strong support for vaccine mandates like Trudeau has announced — for government officials and Canadians traveling between provinces and overseas — but his Liberal Party's lead has shrunk to a statistical tie with the Conservatives since the campaign started.