Niagara police are investigating after animal rights protesters and horse carriage operators both allege that assaults occurred on Saturday in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
A young employee of Sentineal Carriages Inc. was “bashed around” by a protester, company co-owner Laura Sentineal told The Lake Report. She said the worker is a minor.
Protester Elizabeth Sigrun denied the allegation and claimed she was assaulted later in the day by the worker's mother.
She alleged the woman was arrested by Niagara Regional Police.
Elizabeth Beattie confirmed to The Lake Report she was arrested and released on-site. She also said the woman who allegedly pushed her daughter was arrested and released.
Beattie said she felt mistreated by the police. She was placed in a cruiser with no air-conditioning and all the windows raised.
After she complained several times that she couldn't breathe properly due to her asthma, police turned on the air-conditioning and rolled one of the windows down, she said.
Police confirmed two people were arrested and released.
Anti-carriage protests have been going on in NOTL for three years with both sides entrenched in their views.
As for the claim that a Sentineal employee was assaulted, Sigrun said, "No such assault took place by any animal activist against any minor, carriage employee, or carriage supporter. Video evidence confirms this and has been published to Ban Horse Carriages Niagara social media.”
A Facebook and YouTube video shows the employee and an older female activist standing side by side. It is unclear what happened, though there was a verbal confrontation.
The Sentineal employee can be heard saying, "You pushed me," while the protester denies the accusation.
Later on Saturday, Sigrun claimed she was "physically assaulted" by that employee's mother.
The carriage company offered a different take.
“One of our employees was assaulted by a very distinguishable animal rights person,” said Sentineal.
The company's employees have been actively ignoring the protesters in an attempt to avoid confrontations, she said.
“My staff have been extraordinarily careful. They don’t interfere, they don’t engage, they pretend (the protesters) aren’t there. And it’s still escalating,” Sentineal said.
A spokesperson for the police said it is a complicated matter.
“As this was a dynamic situation, detectives are continuing to speak with witnesses and review video footage to determine the appropriate course of action,” Const. Jesse Vujasic said in an email Monday.
She said no charges had been laid and no one was injured.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report