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Organizers of pro-Palestinian rally in Toronto call for investigation amid accusations of police brutality

Organizers of a pro-Palestinian rally in Toronto are calling for an “independent civilian investigation” into what they allege was police brutality at a demonstration this past weekend.

The demonstration, which occurred downtown on Saturday evening, led to three protesters being charged, Toronto police previously said.

In a news release issued Sunday, police alleged that while seizing a truck during the demonstration, protesters “became aggressive and assaultive” toward officers.

They also alleged that one woman threw horse manure at officers while another “intentionally used a flagpole to ‘spear’ at an officer.”

But at a news conference on Monday morning, the organizers of the rally accused the officers of using excessive force in their interactions with protesters.

“In the last two weeks we have seen dramatic escalations and violence at the hands of the Toronto Police Service. These escalations are in an attempt to criminalize and intimidate pro-Palestinian protesters off the streets,” Dalia Awwad, a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement – Toronto, told reporters.

“We are here today reaffirming out calls to defund the police because the police do not keep us safe… We are also calling for an independent civilian investigation of what took place and what’s more, we are affirming that these are the people’s streets and we will continue to come out and we will continue to mobilize.”

The Palestinian Youth Movement – Toronto also shared videos of the demonstration on social media, where officers can be seen pushing protesters.

In a statement released over the weekend, the Toronto Police Service said officers employed “the necessary force” to preserve safety while also maintaining order among demonstrators, “particularly when faced with violence and aggression.”

While Toronto police declined interviews, they provided an emailed statement reiterating that police have “unequivocally cautioned” organizers against having people riding in the bed of a truck.

“During Saturday’s demonstration, despite reiterated warnings, the driver allowed someone to stand in the bed of the truck as it was moving,” the statement read. While officers started to stop the vehicle and lay the stunt driving charge, police said the situation escalated “when the driver refused to cooperate with police, abandoning the scene and withholding the vehicle’s keys, further obstructing lawful police action.”

The police service added that their presence this weekend is consistent with what they have done with past demonstrations, adding the Mounted Unit was on standby for crowd control.

“The fundamental difference lies in demonstrators’ refusal to adhere to police directives despite clear forewarning,” Const. Stephanie Sayer wrote.

A spokesperson for Toronto police told CP24 on Sunday that they did not receive any reports of injuries at the demonstration but added that formal complaints can be made through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). 

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