About 30 demonstrators staged a vigil for bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard outside the Toronto Reference Library, where Michael Bryant was speaking at a private event on his controversial book, 28 Seconds.
The demonstrators — many sporting bicycle helmets — stood outside the library’s Yonge Street entrance Sept. 5 holding bouquets of flowers and paper representations of a tombstone depicting Sheppard’s birth and death dates.
Inside, Bryant was scheduled to speak about his book, which is the first, detailed public account from the former St. Paul’s MPP about the fateful Aug. 31, 2009 encounter with Sheppard on Bloor Street that ended Sheppard’s life. The book also features revelations about Bryant’s own battle with alcoholism.
Protest organizer Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip said the purpose of the demonstration was to protest the book’s launch and remind people of Sheppard’s suffering.
“Al Sheppard, his life has ended,” Mueller-Heaslip said. “He’s the victim and, right now, what Michael Bryant’s doing is trying to whitewash what happened and make it seem like he’s the real victim.”
The book’s release had drawn considerable attention, not to mention outrage from those who feel Bryant is capitalizing on a tragic incident.
“I find it very self-indulgent, the book,” Mueller-Heaslip said in an interview. “It expresses a lack of empathy.”
Though prosecutors dropped criminal charges initially laid against Bryant, some at the demonstration said the former attorney-general was not sufficiently held accountable for his role in Sheppard’s death.
A demonstrator who goes by the name Smitty called Bryant’s book “self-serving drivel,” though he admitted he hadn’t read the entire book, only excerpts from it.
“I don’t buy any of his story,” said Smitty, who said he knew Sheppard casually from the bike messenger business. Smitty, who said he reviewed witness accounts and surveillance footage of the 2009 incident, called Bryant the attacker.
But prosecutors concluded Sheppard was the attacker during the encounter with Bryant’s car on Bloor Street that night. Bryant had been driving home from a wedding anniversary dinner when his car stalled and lurched toward Sheppard, who was on a bike in front of him, near Yonge Street.
According to evidence presented, Sheppard, who was intoxicated at the time, went on to the hood of the car and held on to the side of the door as Bryant steered the car into opposing lanes. Sheppard died from injuries sustained when he struck a hydrant while holding on to Bryant’s car.
Bryant was charged and subsequently resigned from his position as CEO of Invest Toronto. The charges were withdrawn in 2010.
Reached by phone on Sept. 6, Rachel Harry, Bryant’s publicist at Penguin Canada, told the Town Crier Bryant was aware of the group demonstration outside the library and “was respectful of it,” but would not be commenting on it.
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