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‘Large-scale’ demonstrations related to Israel-Hamas war expected this weekend, Toronto police say

A number of “large-scale” demonstrations are scheduled to take place across Toronto on Saturday and Sunday and residents should expect to see a heightened police presence in parts of the city, police say.

At a news conference on Friday, Toronto Deputy Police Chief Lauren Pogue, of the community safety command, gave advance notice to residents, saying the demonstrations will be pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, and that police will be present to ensure the rallies are lawful.

The demonstrations are planned as the Israel-Hamas war continues in the Middle East. 

“We will not tolerate any intimidation, any harassment, or any hate-motivated behaviour aimed at specific communities in our city,” Pogue told reporters at police headquarters.

“We will always aggressively pursue any alleged or suspected cases of hate crime or violence in our city,” she added. “Anyone whose behaviour crosses the line from lawful demonstration to criminality can expect to be arrested.” 

Pogue said officers with the Toronto Police Service’s hate crimes unit will be present to gather evidence and investigate any suspected hate crimes, speech or signs.

The majority of demonstrations will be in the downtown core, but Pogue declined to say where and when exactly and who is organizing the events.

Some organizers have obtained permits for their demonstrations, while others have not, she added. Permits help police to respond but police will respond regardless, she said.

“We have allocated resources appropriately to manage public safety in all of those areas of Toronto,” she said. Officers will also help manage traffic and try to “minimize disruption” to businesses and residents. 

“We have a tremendous amount of resources and we can scale up and scale down.”

Pogue said there is no “known threat” to the city of Toronto, however.

Police aware of concern about planned car rally

Pogue added that police are aware of a planned car rally in support of Gaza expected to travel from Durham Region to downtown Toronto on Saturday.

“I know there was a concern about these people in the cars driving through specific neighbourhoods,” she said.

“As I’ve said previously and earlier today, we will not tolerate any criminality, any intimidating of any community in our city,” she added.

A sign reading Metropolitan Toronto Police Headquarters on a building downtown.
A view of Toronto Police Headquarters on College Street. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Pogue said the police service has enhanced its hate crime unit and is encouraging people who have not reported before to come forward if they have witnessed what they think are hate-motivated crimes. 

On Friday, police said a 40-year-old Toronto woman was arrested and charged after she was accused of a “hate-motivated” assault in the area of Bay Street and Richmond Street on Wednesday.

According to police, the victim was in front of her residence and saw the accused tearing down posters in support of Israel from phone posts. The victim asked the accused what she was doing. 

“The accused asked the victim if she was Jewish. The victim began to record the accused as she was disposing of the materials,” police said in a news release.

The accused then assaulted the victim, police said. The accused has been charged with assault.

From Oct. 7 to Oct. 25, police say they have investigated 20 suspected hate crimes in Toronto. Those include 15 antisemitic incidents, compared to seven in the same time last year, and five anti-Islamic incidents compared to zero in the same time period last year.

Police have previously said hate crimes may be underreported for several reasons, including fear and retaliation.

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