Hamilton police arrested and ticketed a Toronto-based lawyer for trespassing near a Progressive Conservative campaign stop on Thursday evening, but Caryma Sa'd says she was targeted for criticizing party leader Doug Ford.
Police say Ford was at the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport for a campaign stop at about 5:30 p.m. when protesters showed up.
Sa'd said she has been asked to leave Ford events in the past and this time RSVP'd to attend the event. She's known for creating cartoons and videos that criticize politicians and people protesting public health measures.
Sa'd said she wasn't there as a protester but as a political commentator. She said someone from Ford's team asked her to leave and called the police when she refused.
A video posted on Twitter by Sa'd appears to show the conversation in front of the Cargojet facility before her arrest.
"It's pretty obvious what your intentions are coming here, it's all over Twitter.... You're not invited to this event, you're not welcome ... we know you're not here for the right intentions," said a person speaking to Sa'd in the video. The person appears to be wearing an in-ear headset, but their affiliation is unclear.
"I'll wait for the police," Sa'd said in the video.
The Progressive Conservative Party didn't answer questions from CBC Hamilton about the incident, deferring to police.
Police say protesters were on private property and that officers asked them to move when they blocked off the road to the Cargojet facility.
Woman given multiple warnings before arrest: police
Another video posted by Sa'd on Instagram appears to show the moments immediately before her arrest. Hamilton police spokesperson Jackie Penman said the arrest took place at about 6:30 p.m.
"So it's your choice," a Hamilton police officer says in the video.
"No one has articulated why ... I'm not allowed into this event, I have an RSVP," Sa'd says while someone tells her she's trespassing.
"OK, you're under arrest," the officer says before the video shows him approaching her.
Penman told CBC Hamilton that officers asked the 33-year-old woman to move "several times and instructed that if she did not comply, she would be arrested for trespassing — fail to leave premise when directed."
Another video posed by Sa'd seems to show her being handcuffed.
"Can she leave?" someone says behind the camera.
"No, she had her opportunity," the police officer says.
Sa'd was taken off the property before being released and given a $65 ticket. Penman said the woman was taken to Airport Road before others joined her there and demonstrated peacefully.
"As far as I am aware, there have been no other arrests at campaign stops this year," Penman said.
When asked about the incident at a campaign stop Friday, Ford did not directly address the question of whether he supported the arrest or ticket but thanked the Hamilton police for their support.
'This should never happen in a free society': Del Duca
Sa'd said she wasn't part of a protest but was there to document the event.
Hamilton 350, an environmental group organizing a protest outside the event, posted on Twitter that its members were also there. None of its members were arrested and it felt that Sa'd was singled out.
Don Mclean, a member of the group, said he watched the arrest and corroborated Sa'd's account. "We didn't even have signs at that point," he said.
Mclean said she was not part of the protest and was arrested well before any protesters were standing on roads. He added that his group of protesters were asked to move even when they were on public property outside the facility.
Penman didn't clarify questions about the wording of the press release, which says the person arrested was part of the group blocking roads.
Sa'd acknowledged that while the facility is private property, the rally was a public event. Given that she properly signed up for the event, she said she should have been given a fulsome explanation for why she couldn't attend.
Sa'd said she attended events for Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca this week and had no issues, despite criticizing him.
Del Duca criticized Ford on Twitter for the incident.
"First Doug Ford hides from the media, now his staff have them arrested. This should never happen in a free society," he wrote Thursday evening.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner also commented on the incident during a campaign stop in Hamilton on Friday.
"It is wrong and inappropriate to arrest a journalist, even though they may be citizen journalists, at a political event," he said. "We live in a province, in a country where one, people should be able to express themselves without fear of arrest, and two, people who are engaging in journalistic activities should not be arrested for showing up at a political event."
Sa'd said she's a bit "shaken up" by the event and isn't sure if she'll attend others in the future.
"I do political commentary, so to be blocked because of disagreement with my views that are not violent or objectionable ... I think that is the bigger concern and it reeks of authoritarianism," she said.