In an expression of solidarity with Israel, a sea of supporters flooded Mel Lastman Square, following a weekend of violence in the Middle East. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, an attendee at the rally orchestrated by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, delivered a fervent plea for the immediate release of the hostages seized in the recent horrific assault, whilst also staunchly condemning the terrorist backlash by Hamas.
Claiming that the celebration of terror is contrary to the Canadian ethos, Freeland declared, “That is not who we are. That is not what Canada is. There is no room for that in our country.”
Security forces from Toronto, York, and Durham regions, and from the Ontario Provincial Police, were present that evening at Mel Lastman Square, delineating a barrier between the Israeli solidarity demonstration and a growing wave of pro-Palestinian counter-protestors.
As the evening closed, Toronto police stated that overall, the demonstration had been “relatively peaceful,” with four arrests made, details of charges yet to be revealed.
In a separate event, Palestinian Youth Movement conducted a pro-Palestinian demonstration at Nathan Phillips Square, at its peak amassing roughly a thousand individuals, passionately advocating for “free Palestine” and supporting the continuation of resistance against occupation.
A degree of support for the actions of Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, also surfaced among the demonstrators. The resultant civic disturbance led to sporadic road closures in downtown Toronto, primarily on Bay Street.
On the local front, shockwaves were felt in the Jewish community following the unexpected attack by Hamas during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Militants infiltrated Israel, claimed young lives at a music festival, attacked families in their homes, and abducted girls and elderly to Gaza.
The escalation since this horrifying assault has led to around 900 Israelis and 500 Palestinians losing their lives. In response to the attack, Israel launched bombarding counterattacks against the Gaza Strip.
An online furor was sparked against the celebratory actions of Palestinian groups in the aftermath. Palestine4Toronto, for example, encouraged its members to commemorate the attacks by proudly parading Palestinian flags atop the Roncesvalles pedestrian bridge over the Gardiner Expressway.
Mayor Olivia Chow expressed her condemnation of the pro-Palestinian rally, aligning it to supporting terror and violence. She received updates on the investigation of suspected hate crimes from Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw and confirmed her presence at the Israeli solidarity rally at Mel Lastman’s square.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also joined the political chorus condemning the pro-Hamas demonstrations, reiterating the unacceptability of glorifying violence in Canada.
Finally, amidst the alarming escalation of tensions, Toronto police reinforced their obligation to uphold everyone’s rights and freedoms while ensuring the peaceful conduct of demonstrations.