A Toronto march organized in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong was prevented from going forward on Saturday after a clash with counter demonstrators.
A few hundred people gathered outside Old City Hall on Saturday afternoon with the intention of marching around the Eaton Centre in solidarity with protestors in Hong Kong, who are in their 10th week of advocating for an extradition bill to be withdrawn.
The bill would allow residents to be extradited from Hong Kong to China, something protestors say could heighten risk for activists and those critical of China.
Protestors are also calling for the resignation of Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam, democratic elections and an independent investigation into the police’s use of force.
Gloria Fung, one of the organizers of the march and president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, said that when they arrived at Old City Hall, they were met by members of a pro-China group who was chanting “one China” and was blocking the protesters from leaving the area.
“They do not have a permit to stage this rally here,” Fung told reporters. “They are only here to jeopardize our freedom of expression. In Canada we show zero tolerance to this kind of intimidation and harassment.”
Fung also alleged that some volunteers and organizers had been attacked in the clash. Toronto police have confirmed that no one was physically injured.
CTV News Toronto tried to speak to pro-China protestors, but many would not speak to on camera. One man said that reporters and civilians were being attacked by protestors in Hong Kong.
“We want one China. Anything can be negotiated, but we want to talk in peace,” he said.
Video from the rally shows the two groups yelling at each other while waving flags and holding signs that say “we are not rioters” and “withdraw the extradition bill.”
Fung said that instead of marching, the group will remain outside Old City Hall in “peaceful protest.”
“This is Canada. We have the constitutional right to freedom of expression. No one can take that from all of us.”
Fung also called on the Canadian government and the international community to take action.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a joint statement with her European Union counterpart condemning the violence in Hong Kong.
“For the last two months, large numbers of citizens have been exercising their fundamental right of assembly. However, there has recently been a rising number of unacceptable violent incidents, with risks of further violence and instability,” the statement reads.
“It is crucial that restraint be exercised, violence rejected and urgent steps taken to de-escalate the situation.