Toronto police arrest, remove three protesters from site where demonstrations banned

Toronto police arrest, remove three protesters from site where demonstrations banned © Provided by The Canadian Press

Toronto police say they’ve arrested three people for allegedly holding a protest on a highway overpass where demonstrations have been officially banned.

Const. Ashley Visser says a group of roughly 20 to 30 people gathered on the Highway 401 overpass near Avenue Road during the afternoon, violating a ban police announced late last week in response to increasingly contentious demonstrations sparked by the Israel-Hamas war.

Visser says three men in their 20s and 30s were arrested and removed from the overpass, and police have since charged one with mischief and the other two with obstructing police.

Police say the men were given a chance to leave but they refused.

Chief Myron Demkiw announced the ban on protests at the overpass on Thursday, saying the recent demonstrations there were raising “very serious concern for community safety.”

He said many, particularly members of Toronto’s Jewish community, are feeling increasingly unsafe amid growing numbers of protests and a spike in hate crimes targeting both Jews and Muslims.

Police say hate-crime reports surged 42 per cent between 2022 and 2023, with antisemitic incidents accounting for 37 per cent of them.

Reports of hate crimes targeting Jewish people more than doubled from 65 in 2022 to 132 last year, while anti-Muslim, anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian hate crime reports nearly tripled from 12 to 35 over the same period.

Demkiw told Thursday’s news conference that officers would increasingly be “applying a criminal lens” when policing protests in the city.

On the same day, Demkiw also announced police had laid what he described as an “unprecedented” charge of public incitement of hatred against a man who allegedly held a flag of a terrorist group during a downtown demonstration last weekend.

Source: The Canadian Press