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Toronto police investigating defaced posters of kidnapped Israeli children as they launch new awareness campaign about hate crimes

Toronto police are investigating after swastikas were drawn on posters of children who were kidnapped by Hamas, an incident which came to light on the same day that a new hate crimes awareness campaign was launched.

Images of the defaced posters were shared in a post on X by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal. According to the group, the posters were found in Cedarvale Park this morning.

Toronto police confirmed that they are aware of the incident and said they have launched an investigation.

In a post on X, Mayor Olivia Chow called the graffiti “vile.”

“My office has been in contact with Parks, Forestry, and Recreation. They will quickly remove the vandalized posters,” Chow said in her post. “This is a vile act, and I condemn antisemitism in our city.”

On Sunday the city’s Jewish community held a large rally at Nathan Phillips Square to mark six months since the Oct. 7 massacre, which saw Hamas fighters break through a barrier from the Gaza Strip and slaughter around 1,200 Israelis while taking hundreds of others hostage.

Israel’s offensive in response to the Oct. 7 attack has killed more than 33,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

The discovery of the vandalized posters in a Toronto park comes the same day that Toronto Crime Stoppers and the Toronto Police Service launched a new hate crime awareness campaign.

“The objective of the campaign is to help deter and eliminate acts of hate that are negatively impacting local communities. The campaign seeks to educate and encourage members of the community to report hate crimes and other forms of criminality to the police or anonymously through Toronto Crime Stoppers,” police said in a release.

The campaign consists of a series of posters, as well as a radio ad.

“The impact of crime motivated by hate is far-reaching. It extends beyond the physical and emotional trauma suffered by the victim, affecting all members of the targeted community and beyond,” Deputy Chief Robert Johnson said in a statement. “Concerned citizens who see something and say something, whether by calling the police or making an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers, play an essential role in preventing and addressing crime in our city.”

The posters feature messages saying hate crimes cause isolation, can escalate into violence, and “weigh heavily on our communities.”

They encourage people to “see it, say it, stop it” and report incidents to police or anonymously through Crime Stoppers.

Toronto police have previously said that they have seen a spike in hate crimes since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. 

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