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Pro-Palestinian protesters rocked Toronto’s streets over the weekend as demonstrators made inflammatory statements and clashed with police.

Toronto police were prompted to arrest several protesters after the demonstration became unruly. 

This past weekend, Toronto’s Palestinian Youth Movement rallied hundreds of protesters in the city’s downtown core to acknowledge “Land Day.” The Palestinian political day of observance marks the 48th anniversary of the Israeli government’s decision to confiscate a section of land for state purposes; a minority of which was Arab-owned.

At the protest, demonstrators could be heard yelling pro-Palestinian slogans like “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that Jewish organizations condemn as extreme and antisemitic as it refers to the erasure of the nation of Israel. 

Footage from the protest shows the notorious Palestinian protest organizer Naved Awan calling for his fellow demonstrators to hold those accountable for failing to support the Palestinian cause, even at synagogues.

Deputy Conservative Party of Canada leader Melissa Lantsman denounced the rhetoric while putting out a wake up call for Canadians.

As the protest grew more and more disorderly, the Toronto police attempted to control the protest by denying access to counter-protesters and limiting where demonstrators could march.

However, the situation quickly devolved, as the police were forced to arrest several ill-behaved protesters who had allegedly attacked the police.

Toronto police arrested 24-year-old Assia Rami who was charged with assault of a peace officer with a weapon for allegedly throwing horse manure at several officers.

The police also arrested Celeste Xiaoying Furlotte-Bois and also charged her with assault of a peace officer for allegedly using a flagpole to intentionally spear an officer.

A driver of a pickup truck was arrested at the protest for stunt driving under the Highway Traffic Act, as he was driving around with protesters in the truck’s bed. His license has been suspended for 30 days and his truck has been impounded for 14 days. 

In a statement to True North, Toronto police spokesperson Stephanie Sayer said that protesters were first warned not to stand in the bed of a moving truck, but the warnings were not heeded.

“For months, police have unequivocally cautioned demonstration organizers and drivers about not having people riding in the bed of the truck or on the attached trailer while the truck is in motion – as stipulated in the Highway Traffic Act,” said Sayer.

“During Saturday’s demonstration, despite reiterated warnings, the driver allowed someone to stand in the bed of the truck as it was moving.”

Furthermore, Sayer claims that the driver had refused to cooperate with the police and got aggressive with law enforcement when confronted.

“The situation began to escalate when the driver refused to cooperate with police, abandoning the scene and withholding the vehicle’s keys, further obstructing lawful police action. When police moved in to secure the vehicle, demonstrators resorted to physical aggression against officers.”

Four more protesters were arrested for breach of the peace for unlawfully interfering with an arrest. Three of these protesters were released unconditionally while one was turned over to the Ontario Provincial Police for an unrelated matter. 

The arrests sparked hysteria amongst the crowd as protesters could be heard comparing the Toronto police to the Ku Klux Klan and the Israeli “Occupation” Forces – a play off of the Israel Defence Forces’ name.

In the aftermath of their clash with Toronto police, protest organizers accused the police of brutalizing protesters, sending several to the hospital, and using a tactic known as “kettling” to entrap the protesters and provoke them. 

Toronto-Centre MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam issued a statement claiming that the protest was shut down unlawfully, that the police used the kettling tactic, and implied that the protest was shut down because it occurred in a largely “racialized” neighbourhood. 

“I have listened to stories of what happened that substantiate how the movement for Palestinian human rights is not being policed equally with other movements. Toronto has a long history of racialized residents facing over-policing and violence,” said Wong-Tam.

However, the Toronto police reject the allegations of police brutality and over-policing of Palestinian protests.

Toronto police spokesperson Sayer said that the police employed appropriate and necessary force to preserve public safety and order and that there was no kettling.

“Police employed appropriate and necessary force to preserve public and officer safety while maintaining order during protest activity, particularly when faced with violence and aggression. Several people have been charged with assaulting police with weapons,” said Sayer.

“There was no “kettling” – protestors were free to depart the event at any time.”

Canada’s former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier backed the Toronto police’s handling of the situation and claimed that the police had likely not gone far enough.

“Based on the videos there should have been 60 or more arrested, not 6!” said Hillier.

At a subsequent protest the next day, Toronto4Palestine organizer Naved Awan lashed out at the police and “Zionists.”

“If the chief of police wants to go into a place of worship, or anywhere else, all of you have to be there and say ‘no’ you can’t be here, you’re over-policing us,” said Awan.

“Because what do Zionists like? Genocide. What do Zionists like? Ethnic cleansing. What do Zionists like? They like to be guilty of the Palestinian holocaust.”