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Toronto police chief apologizes after video of cops carrying coffee at protest sparks outrage


Toronto’s police chief is apologizing after officers were filmed bringing coffee and donuts to protesters at a pro-Palestinian demonstration over the weekend.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been demonstrating at the Avenue Road overpass over Highway 401 for several weeks, sometimes clashing with pro-Israel counter-demonstrators.

Video shared with CP24 by a lawyer who was at the protest on Jan. 6 shows officers bringing Tim Hortons coffee and donuts to protesters on the bridge.

In the video, the protester who is handed the coffee says that police were preventing more protesters from joining the demonstration on the overpass, but agreed to carry over the refreshments which had been bought for them.

"The coffee was bought for us, but police won't let them in. So the police are now becoming our little messengers between us," he said.

Police are seen handing over coffee from protesters who were blocked from joining a demonstration on the Avenue Road overpass of Highway 401 Jan. 6. (Courtesy Caryma Sa’d)

Images of the officers handing the protesters coffee sparked outrage online.  

"Here's an idea. How about not delivering coffee to protesters who are disrupting traffic and blocking a bridge?," one person said on X.

The overpass is located in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood, and area residents have said they feel the protests are aimed, in part, at intimidating them.

In a statement issued later, Chief Myron Demkiw didn't specifically reference the coffee, but said "questions have been raised" about one particular interaction between officers and a protester on the bridge.

"Whatever the intent, the impact has been to cause concern and confusion, and for that, I am sorry," the chief said. "I immediately convened Command meetings and ordered a thorough review of the day's events and to ensure that the most effective operational planning and responses are in place."

The chief added: "Let me be clear and unequivocal: our commitment to keeping our city's Jewish community safe is unwavering. We are doing everything we can in the locations that have been targeted for demonstration to uphold and enforce the law."

Toronto Police have said in the past that while they will protect the right of people to demonstrate in public, they will not allow protests around critical infrastructure such as highways. It’s not entirely clear why the overpass protests have been allowed to continue.

In a separate incident Sunday, Mayor Olivia Chow's New Year's Levee skate party at Nathan Phillips Square was crashed by another group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who went onto the ice and shouted her down as she was making her comments.

She responded to some of the protesters calling for a ceasefire, referring them to a statement she made back in November, which called for "the immediate and unconditional return of all hostages and a ceasefire."

In that same statement she said she was hearing daily reports about people feeling fearful and targeted amid ongoing protests over the Israel-Hamas war and she called on Torontonians "to be the best of themselves."

But she struggled to speak over continued chanting Sunday as she recalled how Nathan Phillips Square was one of the first places she felt she belonged as a young immigrant from Hong Kong.  

The skate party featured free hot chocolate and cookies, indigenous sports, and an opportunity to skate with the players from Toronto’s new Professional Women’s Hockey League team.

Chow later tweeted about the skate party, but did not mention the protesters. Top Stories

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