A Peel police sergeant has been suspended pending investigation, after videos of an officer not wearing a mask while hugging and interacting with members of an antimask group outside Mississauga’s Huf Gym surfaced on social media Friday.
The video was tweeted on Friday afternoon by Global journalist Sean O’Shea. In it, the sergeant is seen touching and hugging several members of an antimask group outside the gym, which has remained open in defiance of the provincial lockdown for four straight days.
“I haven’t kissed anybody and I gave a hug. I’ll give you a hug, if you want,” he says to O’Shea.
Peel police have confirmed the officer’s badge number as 1889 but didn’t identify his name or what he was doing at the scene.
“Upon learning of the incident, I immediately directed that the Sergeant be suspended and commenced an Internal Affairs investigation,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said in his statement.
“Our officers will enforce municipal and provincial regulations as required,” he added.
City spokesperson Catherine Monast emailed the Star on Thursday stating that municipal law enforcement officers began investigating the gym on Wednesday after reports that a gym had opened in contravention of provincial regulations. On Friday afternoon, Mississauga’s enforcement director Sam Rogers followed up by saying that officers “will be laying four charges against the establishment,” each with a fine of up to $500,000 and up to a year in prison. Charges included obstruction and violation of the Reopening Ontario Act for allowing a gathering, operating as a non-essential business, and for defying an order to close.
Additionally, two patrons of the gym were charged and issued $880 each.
The city was pursuing further legal action through the Ministry of the Attorney General, Rogers said.
According to its website, the gym opened at 6:15 a.m. Thursday for boxing, and will open again at 6 p.m. Friday for more classes. Gym co-owner Teresa Heron previously told the Star that the gym had capacity for 20 people.
Huf Gym posted a YouTube video on Friday which shows they are operating at full capacity, with no patrons wearing masks or socially distancing.
In it, one of the co-founders, Jonathan Heron discusses the mental-health benefits of keeping the gym open.
“We help save people. That’s what we’re here for,” he said.
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