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Toronto mayor condemns pro-Palestinian protest that 'targeted' Jewish-owned restaurant

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Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow condemned a protest outside of a Jewish-owned business in Toronto over the weekend, alongside public officials who called it an “appalling” and “reprehensible” act of antisemitism.

Videos posted online Saturday show hundreds of protesters waving Palestinian flags outside of Cafe Landwer at University Avenue and Adelaide Street while chanting “boycott.”

Protesters wave Palestinian flags outside of Cafe Landwer at University Avenue and Adelaide Street in Toronto Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.

“Targeting a business in this way is wrong. There is no place in our city for antisemitism, Islamophobia, hate, intimidation and harassment of any kind,” Chow said in a social media post on Monday.

Cafe Landwer, which has six locations in Toronto, said in a statement to CTV News Toronto on Monday that its primary focus is the safety of employees and patrons, along with upholding an “inclusive atmosphere that embraces individuals from diverse backgrounds.” 

The video surfaced after demonstrators marched in a pro-Palestinian rally through downtown Toronto on Saturday as the Israel-Hamas war entered its second week.

One of the videos posted to Instagram was paired with the caption “zionist cafe boycott” and showed one participant waving a flag in the window of the restaurant as patrons sit at a booth eating a meal.

“I urge everyone in our city, through all the pain and anger so many are feeling right now, not to lose sight of our common humanity,” Chow said, pointing to the city’s recent increase in hate incidents. Since the war began with Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the daily average of hate-related police calls in Toronto has increased by 132 per cent, Toronto's police chief said last week.

Toronto police said there were no arrests at the protest.

The restaurant targeted, Cafe Landwer, was “singled-out” for the fact that it is Jewish-owned, MP Kevin Vuong told CP24.

Moshe Landwer originally opened the coffee shop in Berlin in 1919, and moved it to Tel Aviv a decade later to escape the Nazi regime, according to the restaurant’s website.

“That’s not just. That’s not right. It’s an indefensible act of antisemitism and anti-hatred and it must be condemned,” Vuong told CP24 on Sunday.

He called the protest a “slippery slope” that will propagate hate if it is not stopped.

City councillors Josh Matlow and Brad Bradford also condemned the incident.

Matlow said he hopes everyone – no matter their politics or ideology – can agree that harassing a Jewish business and justifying Hamas’ terror attacks is “fundamentally wrong,” while Bradford called the rally “appalling” and “reprehensible.”

We must stand with the Jewish community in the face of this reprehensible antisemitism,” he wrote on social media. “A commitment was made to ensure the community feels safe. Now is the time for action, not words.”

CP24 and CTV News Toronto reached out to the restaurant for comment but has not recieved a response. 

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government. 

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