Although nonetheless upsetting, Mayor Brian Bigger said the harassment he faced on Tuesday wasn’t too surprising in the scope of things.
It is, after all, part of a growing trend in society, which he told Sudbury.com has been fuelled by social media and represents the struggles and anxieties that accompany these troubled times.
“This is escalating, I feel, and quite honestly, these really are unprecedented times and they’re stressful times for people across the community,” he told Sudbury.com.
In a media release issued by Greater Sudbury Police Service today, it was reported that a man was banging on the front door of Bigger’s private residence, yelling and videotaping his home shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Bigger phoned the police because he feared for his and his family’s safety.
A police investigation led them to arrest a 33-year-old man at approximately 11:20 p.m. The suspect has been charged with criminal harassment, released on an undertaking and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 26.
With this matter before the court, Bigger said he’s not sharing any further details at this time, but did offer Sudbury.com additional context about what he and other elected officials have faced.
In the last two weeks alone he reports receiving a death threat and finding people sitting out in front of his house, watching it.
During the summer, anti-maskers banded together via social media to organize cruises, during which they’d circle his New Sudbury neighbourhood to honk and yell obscenities in his direction.
“We have a lot of seniors in our community, so they think they’re just getting at the mayor and they have zero consideration for anyone else,” Bigger said, adding that they would frequently “terrorize the neighbourhood.”
While upset to see public discourse degrade in this manner, Bigger said he understands where it has come from.
The “exceptional activities down south” that came alongside the Trump era were only exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, he said, which resulted in various other concerns. These have included people’s rights and freedoms as they related to masks, vaccines and health orders, homelessness, opioid use and mental health concerns.
Recent months have also brought about the discovery of the remains of hundreds of children at various residential school sites, beginning with a site in Kamloops, B.C.
“It’s just an accumulation of all of that, and people are struggling mentally, they’re fearful, they’re confused, they’re angry, and it’s never been like this in my experience as a mayor,” Bigger said. “It really is a point where it’s exceptional.”
In certain cases, people get riled up enough about what they read online that they take matters into their own hands.
“There are proper and appropriate channels to community members who are looking for ways to contact community leaders, public officials, and obviously attending an individual’s private residence just crosses a line,” Bigger said. “It’s not an appropriate avenue.”
Despite these challenges and continued examples of a breakdown in public discourse, Bigger said that he’ll continue to do the job he was elected to do.
“The best thing that you can do is continue to get up every day and do your best possible job you can to the best of your abilities, think positive and look for the positives and the good in everything,” he said.
After a pause, he added that he recognizes how cheesy that sounds but that it best represents his course of action.
During this year’s federal election, Nickel Belt Liberal MP Marc Serré reported that several of his campaign signs were vandalized and that a 14-year-old volunteer was threatened on social media. Other candidates reached out to Sudbury.com after this initial report to note that they faced similar unnecessary hurdles in their campaigns.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.