Apiecalypse Now! takes on anti-abortion protesters

Pizzeria's owner lambastes anti-choice group outside her Christie Pits restaurant in video clip

Anti-choice protesters carrying graphic signage and stuffing mailboxes with leaflets containing disturbing images have become an increasing presence on Toronto’s streets in recent weeks – so much so that city councillors have put forth a motion looking at the possibility of banning groups from displaying these images in public.

A more direct approach was taken by Apiecalypse Now! owner Jen Bundock. When a group of protesters bearing images of dismembered fetuses set up shop next to the vegan pizzeria‘s Christie Pits location (735 Bloor, at Grace), she confronted them, livestreaming the exchange to her Instagram account.

“Can I have some free condoms?” Bundock is seen asking the group, after they don’t respond to her requests for them to move. “Oh, no, you don’t have condoms? You don’t want people to get pregnant, but you’re not handing out condoms? Are you funding daycares? How many children have you adopted? Are you supporting women of colour in poor neighbourhoods who can’t afford to raise any children? … School breakfast programs? How much of that have you funded? Do you preach anything but abstinence? Do you support the existing sexual health curriculum at school? No you don’t,” she says.

“You’re just here to make people feel bad … You make people feel like shit for making a hard decision that you will never have to make,” Bundock says, addressing some of the male protesters. “You will never have to make it! Shame on you! Shame on you! Get the fuck away from my restaurant with this shit!”

While the incident actually occurred earlier this month, the video has gone locally viral in recent days, garnering hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook.

“I wasn’t filming it to try and put it out there as a ‘hey, look at what I did,'” Bundock tells NOW. “But sometimes [people might] try to slap the phone out of your hand — this way, even if it gets smashed, the video evidence lives.”

Neighbouring businesses like Speakeasy Tattoo and Sam James Coffee Bar had dealt with protesters outside before (Sam James famously threw coffee on their signs), but this was the first time they’d appeared outside Apiecalypse, Bundock says.

According to Bundock, these particular protesters had been bussed into the city for the weekend from smaller towns and cities, and were pausing with their signs at various stops along the Bloor line that weekend. (On Saturday and Sunday, Bundock notes, they re-traced the same path – but they skipped Christie Pits.)

Bundock says they seemed unprepared to deal with her reaction (as the stunned faces captured in the video reflect).

“The training they probably got in church basements was probably de-escalation – like, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’” she says. “They’re prepared for a debate, but not for someone to get in their face.”

At one point, a protester is seen telling Bundock, “We do have a right to be here.” Bundock notes that having been involved in various protests herself over the years, she understood what could not legally be done — for example, threatening them, touching them or breaking their signs.

“They don’t have a protocol for someone who knows how to deal with them,” she says. “They have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t meant they have a right to an audience, or a right to be listened to, or a right to be there unopposed.”

The signs strike a personal nerve for Bundock. “It’s important that I stand up for friends of mine who have had late-term abortions because the fetuses weren’t going to live for more than a couple days after they were born,” she says. “When they were grieving, they came to my restaurant to get food. I was feeding them while they were going through grief. If they had come to my restaurant while those signs were there, it would have been traumatizing for them.”

In the day since the video was reposted, Bundock says, the praise she’s received has far outweighed the criticism.

“I’ve had hundreds of people message me. They’ve come to the shop and given me flowers. I’ve had more hugs today than I’ve had in six months. This morning, we had a line of women waiting outside when we unlocked the door,” she says.

“People feel like they can’t speak out because it’s too visceral, or close to the bone for them. So if you can, I would encourage people to do that, and stand up, and speak their minds. What I want people to know is that they don’t have to tolerate stuff like this in their neighbourhoods.”

food@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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