Marie-Claire Bissonnette told Global News that she and 76 other anti-abortion protesters were gathered at the corner of Bloor and Keele late Sunday afternoon to peacefully protest as part of an annual event dubbed Life Chain.
The hour-long demonstration which was set to wrap up at around 3 p.m. had been placid for the most part, according to Bissonnette. The only other counter-protester present at the time — a woman silently holding up a pro-choice sign.
But about halfway through the protest, Bissonnette said the mood quickly changed.
“This guy comes up and I guess he sees what’s going on, and so he took out three markers and he drew on two of our signs, and so I shouted, ‘Protect your signs,’ said Bissonnette. “I guess that gave him the idea to start scribbling on people’s backs, so he scribbled on five people’s backs.”
That’s when Bissonnette said she pulled out her phone and started recording. Cellphone video, later posted to YouTube showed the unidentified man asking a hypothetical question to Bissonnette about whether or not a raped teen should have an abortion.
Bissonnette can be heard behind the camera saying the teen should “keep the child.” At that moment, the man is seen winding up then roundhouse-kicking Bissonnette in the shoulder — sending her phone clattering to the ground.
The video has since gone viral online, receiving thousands of views across several social-media platforms.
Bissonnette said she’s still in shock.
“I did not see it coming. I didn’t anticipate any violence,” Bissonnette said. “As soon as he kicked me, the only thing I could think of was to get the police, make sure someone calls the police.”
But when officers arrived on scene 10 minutes later, Bissonnette said the man had already fled and police seemed reluctant to help.
“I told them what happened and showed them the video and they said, ‘What do you want us to do about it?'” said Bissonnette. “Just the way they phrased things kind of leaned towards encouraging me not to press charges.”
Bissonnette said she intends to file a complaint.
In a statement posted on Instagram on Wednesday, Noble Studio 101 – a Toronto hair salon – identified the man in the video as Jordan Hunt.
“It has been brought to our attention that Jordan Hunt has been caught on camera assaulting an innocent bystander at a pro-life rally,” the statement said.
“We don’t condone his actions and he has been let go. We believe that everyone has a right to an opinion and the right to voice their opinion without fear of physical violence.”
A spokesperson for the hair studio was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening when contacted by Global News.
A profile posted on the business’ website, which was found through an internet cache and appears to have been recently deleted, shows a picture of a man with the same physical features as the man seen in the video posted online.
A Toronto police spokesperson said Wednesday evening that the investigation into the incident is still ongoing. They could not confirm the identity of the man in the video and it’s not clear if Hunt has been identified as a person of interest or if any charges will be laid in relation to the incident.
Global News attempted to contact Hunt for comment Wednesday evening, but he could not be reached.
Meanwhile, Bissonnette said while the degree of violence in this particular attack was unnerving, she’s no stranger to facing aggression for her beliefs.
“I’ve had teenage boys throw rocks at me, I’ve also had men saying, ‘How would you like it if I raped you?” said Bissonnette. “My message to them would be that it doesn’t fulfill their goal, it turns me off from their message and the basis of a peaceful society is being able to discuss respectfully with each other.”
— With files from Nick Westoll