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ANIMAL RIGHTS

Protesters claim Jack Astor’s restaurant staff got medieval on them

By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

London police are investigating claims that employees of a Jack Astor’s restaurant used a rooftop patio to dump vinegar and hot liquid on animal-rights activists who were protesting below.

Activists say the medieval-like assault from above came after staff taped what seemed like a bizarre hand-written message: the words “Stay Dry” and a smiley face.

“Five staff took to the roof to dump a bucket of cold water, followed by a bucket of very hot water, followed by a bucket of vinegar on us, all the while shouting obscenities,” activist Chelsea Gross alleged on Facebook.

Another protester, Samantha McPherson, told The Free Press that police said they found surveillance footage of five people in restaurant work garb pouring buckets from the rooftop, but it was hard to identify them individually.

The Free Press could not verify police told the protesters that employees were involved, but police acknowledge they have surveillance footage that doesn’t reveal the exact identities of those on the rooftop.

“Identification is required (if charges are to be laid,)” London police Staff Sgt. Rob Merriman said Sunday.

Asked if police would share their findings with the Liquor Control Board, Merriman said, “(Police) are looking at other avenues.”

The general manager of the Jack Astor’s, Keith Jones, launched his own investigation Sunday and says he plans to interview 29 employees.

“We’re doing everything to find out exactly what is involved,” Jones said. “(Some) people think we don’t care, but that’s not true. We’re trying to figure out who did what, if anything, and get it corrected.”

That commitment is shared by the Canadian corporation that owns Jack Astor’s among its stable of more than 60 restaurants that includes Canyon Creek, Alice Fazooli’s, Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar and signature restaurants in Toronto and the Muskokas.

“We take this seriously and we want to find out exactly what happened,” said Lauren Michell, the vice president of marketing at SIRS Corp — short for Service Inspired Restaurants.

The corporation doesn’t know yet whether any employees were involved, but will share what is found with police, she said.

The two protesters are members of the Animal Liberation Alliance London, and had come Saturday night with pamphlets to give to patrons and signs of pigs being taken to slaughter to hold outside the windows of Jack Astor’s on a busy Saturday night on London’s Richmond Row.

The protesters contend they were harassed by restaurant staff and security before being assaulted from above.

Police say they were called by restaurant employees complaining that protesters were trespassing and interfering with business, but when police arrived, they concluded the protest was legal, Merriman said.

The complaint from protesters was made just before or soon after police arrived, he said.

The protester’s complaints were quickly posted on Facebook and some who read them phoned the restaurant to complain, Jones said.

“We got calls from angry people,” he said.

McPherson said that after she was doused with hot water, she phoned 911, and while she did so, she was struck by vinegar that blinded her for a couple of minutes, an allegation police say they’re investigating.

The co-founder of Animal Liberation Alliance London, Jason King, wrote on Facebook: “The assault on McPherson and Gross is an all too common problem in the non-human advocacy movement . . . The human indifference and oppression of pigs has quickly translated by the offenders to the indifference and oppression of those who speak up for pigs, enabling them to assault peacefully protesting people.”

jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/JSHERatLFPress