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COMMENTARY: Caryn Lieberman on why she challenged man who shouted FHRITP at her

Anti-racism protest held in downtown toronto
A massive turnout as thousands took to the streets of downtown Toronto to protest Black lives lost at the hands of police.

Warning: This story contains language some readers may find offensive.

At the corner of College and Bay Street in Toronto, I was reporting on the anti-Black racism protest when I heard a man yell out a vulgar phrase in my direction.

It is one that, sadly, I have heard before while on the job.

The difference this time was that clearly, I wasn’t letting it go.

For two hours, cameraman/editor Tyler Thornley and I covered the march through the streets of downtown Toronto with the protestors. We heard their cries, we felt their passion and sensed their pain.

READ MORE: Anti-racism protesters march in Toronto to honour Black lives lost at hands of police officers

This was one of many marches held around the world in honour of Black lives lost at the hands of police officers, following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn.

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This was a massive, peaceful group on a mission and it was our job to report on it.

I was doing just that when one man decided to detract from that important message.

“F**k her right in the p****y,” is what he shouted.

It’s demeaning, it’s degrading and it’s harassment.

So I followed him.

In a video that has now gone viral, I am yelling at the man, who was wearing a white T-shirt with writing on the back “F**k the police” and “BLM.”

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“Really? Really? Super cool! That was really classy and just so you know there’s police all right here so thank you for doing that, that was really professional of you taking away from the message” I said as I followed the man through the crowd.

I am not the first female journalist to have had FHITP yelled at her. I hope I am the last.

READ MORE: (Sept. 28, 2018) Man apologizes for yelling FHITP at Halifax reporter during live broadcast

As I expressed on Twitter, I hesitated posting the video of the incident.

Tyler was filming throughout. We are in the midst of a growing movement, Black Lives Matter, that is demanding change. The death of George Floyd has once again sparked a conversation about racism around the world. I do not want to undermine that in any way, shape or form.

The person who thought it was OK to speak to a woman in such an obscene, oppressive manner is part of the problem. The protestors were marching for equality. He detracts from that message.

I just want to be able to do my job.

READ MORE: N.L. politician says law must change after man acquitted of yelling ‘FHITP’ at reporter

Finally, thank you all for your kind messages of support.

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“Thank you for standing up for women’s rights,” one young woman wrote to me.

“Just wanted to say good for you for speaking out and thank you for doing what was right,” another wrote.

I will highlight one more from another woman: “I love that you emphasized the importance of how it took away from the real message of BLM protests. I just wanted to say thank you.”

I agree with her. Let’s please focus on the message. I can certainly do that, when I’m allowed to do my job in a safe, respectful environment.

Caryn Lieberman is a reporter with Global News in Toronto.