Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he and his wife are the latest victims of “aggressive behaviour” directed at public figures after a man confronted them while shopping on Saturday.
Kennedy and his wife Jeanette were at Yaletown’s Swirl Wine Store when he alleges a white man in his late 40s or early 50s approached them and began to “verbally harass” him.
“He then moved to target Jeanette with his verbal abuse and to disparage people living without homes,” the mayor wrote in a Monday press statement.
“His attitude became increasingly aggressive and he initiated physical contact with me.”
Kennedy did not elaborate in his statement on what “physical contact” meant, but said he repeatedly asked the man to leave them alone, and warned him that police would be called.
“When he continued and challenged me to step outside, I called the police and described the incident,” he wrote.
The Vancouver Police Department confirms its officers attended the scene around 5 p.m., and after speaking with all parties involved and nearby witnesses, allowed everyone to depart.
“At the end of that initial investigation, they determined it was entirely appropriate to send all of these parties on their way,” Sgt. Steve Addison told Global News BC on Monday.
“The incident is still under investigation — we still have somethings that we don’t know so we’re still collecting a little bit of information to find out and fully understand what happened.”
According to Kennedy, police told him and his wife that the man would be given a verbal or written warning, and possible charges would be considered.
In an interview, Addison said it would be “inappropriate to speculate” whether any charges may be laid.
Addison further said that when the 911 call came in around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, it received a “priority three” designation that does not require an emergency response.
“At this point, it was reported to us as a verbal altercation,” he explained.
All cases are treated on “individual merit,” Addison added, including those that don’t make the news.
In his statement, Kennedy thanked the officers who responded to his call and said he looks forward to the conclusion of their investigation.
“Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in this kind of aggressive behaviour directed at public figures,” he wrote, citing Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, Victoria Police Chief Del Manak, and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as recent targets.
“Where I fully respect people’s right to express different viewpoints, resorting to harassment or violence is unacceptable.”
In an afternoon interview with Global News BC, Kennedy said negative interactions in public are rare, but are hard on his family when they do happen. He described it as a “very unpleasant” part of the job.
He further clarified that at one point on Saturday, the alleged harasser “touched” him on the arm — part of the catalyst for calling the police.
“I really think people have to check themselves … and use the appropriate avenues. Come to City Hall, write a letter,” he said. “Don’t be confronting folks where they live, that’s not the proper way to behave.”