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Toronto police ban protests at Avenue Road bridge


Toronto police are laying charges against a man who allegedly waved a terrorist flag at a protest, and are moving to block further protests at a major overpass as the city's police chief speaks out against an escalation in hate crimes and unsafe demonstrations in the city.

“Hate and intimidation can have no space in our city and we have been unwavering in our commitment to restore the sense of public safety, and not tolerate behaviour that crosses the line to criminal activity,” Chief Myron Demkiw said in a release Thursday.

“Our officers have worked tirelessly to manage 308 demonstrations ….exponentially more than any other city in Canada.”

In particular, there have been weekly pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the Avenue Road overpass over Highway 401, an area with a large Jewish community. The events have sometimes drawn counter-protests from pro-Israel demonstrators, with occasional clashes.

Area residents contend that the protests, which come in addition to regular downtown protests over the Israel-Hamas war, are aimed at intimidating Jewish residents in the city. They have also been flagged as a safety concern for both the demonstrators and for passing vehicles. The spot was the scene of a recent incident where Toronto police were seen ferrying Tim Hortons coffee to bridge protesters as they worked to contain the situation. The coffee was brought to the area by someone else.

"Moving forward, demonstrations or the congregation of individuals on the Avenue Road overpass will not be permitted," Demkiw said. "People can expect to be arrested if necessary."

Police also said Thursday that they have charged a 41-year-old Toronto man for waving the flag of a listed terrorist organization after a large protest near Queen and Bay streets on Jan. 7. Police did not explicitly identify the nature of the protest, however there was a large pro-Palestinian demonstration at Nathan Phillip’s Square on that day which disrupted Mayor Olivia Chow's Nathan Phillips Hall skate party.

Maged Sameh Hilal Al Khalaf was arrested and charged with public incitement of hatred on Jan. 7.

Police have not explicitly said which group the flag in question belonged to but have indicated that it belonged to a group recognized as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government.

Police have said that hate crimes, particularly antisemitic hate crimes and anti-Muslim/Palestinian/Arab hate crimes, have skyrocketed in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.

"Anti-Semitism continues to account for more reported hate crimes than any other category, making up 37 per cent of all hate crimes reported in 2023," police said Thursday. "In 2023, there were 132 reported anti-Semitic hate crimes compared to 65 in 2022. There was also 35 reported anti-Muslim/Palestinian/Arab hate crimes in 2023 compared to 12 in 2022." Top Stories

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