Scuffles break out during Toronto protest over Israel-Hamas conflict

Click to play video: 'Sit-in demonstration staged at Toronto Scotiabank building'
Sit-in demonstration staged at Toronto Scotiabank building
WATCH: Demonstrators staged a sit-in at a Scotiabank building in Toronto on Friday. The attendees called for a ceasefire in the Middle East as Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip continue amidst its conflict with Hamas – Nov 17, 2023

Scuffles broke out after what was a mostly peaceful protest over the Israel-Hamas conflict at a Scotiabank building in downtown Toronto on Friday, with police claiming demonstrators “became aggressive.”

The Palestinian Youth Movement posted about the event on Instagram and called on demonstrators to attend a Scotiabank office building on King Street, where they said they were protesting the bank’s reported investment in an Israeli arms manufacturer.

“There can be no business as usual while genocide occurs in real time. We are calling all folks to shut down Scotiabank at 11 a.m. for a collective action to disrupt and confront complicity in the ongoing genocide on Gaza,” the post read.

“Toronto, are you ready to answer the call to #ShutltDown4Palestine? We are.”

Demonstrators were seen gathered in the lobby of the building, with some seated on the floor.

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Videos posted on Palestinian Youth Movement Instagram account show demonstrators chanting slogans.

One of the videos appears to show officers physically engaging with demonstrators as police try to clear the building.

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas: Is a tentative ceasefire deal close?'
Israel-Hamas: Is a tentative ceasefire deal close?

A police spokesperson told Global News that officers responded to the demonstration involving around 250 people at around 10:30 a.m. Friday.

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“Demonstrators were given the opportunity to leave or to protest peacefully in the lobby but became aggressive towards police and building security when they were prohibited from entering a closed off area,” the spokesperson claimed.

“Some protestors pushed officers and building security, and attempted to force their way through a security barricade.”

One demonstrator was arrested for assaulting an officer and for trespassing, the spokesperson said, and was removed from the building. They were released with no charges laid.

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The Palestinian Youth Movement said “protesters were met with heavy police presence and repression” when they gathered for a sit-in at the Scotiabank building.

The group claims that as demonstrators began to disperse, a pregnant member of the Jewish Coalition Against Genocide told Toronto police that they were planning on leaving but “police proceeded to assault her after she had notified them she was pregnant.”

“They grabbed her shirt collar and threw her to the floor. And continued assaulting protesters. They punched people, hit them with batons, and shoved them,” the post said.

Global News asked Toronto police about those allegations.

In response, the police spokesperson didn’t specifically address the claims, but again alleged that demonstrators were aggressive.

“To be clear, this escalation occurred when demonstrators became aggressive after not being permitted to march freely on private property,” police said.

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“As you can see in the video, police were blocking demonstrators from entering the rest of the building and were clearly asking them to stay back while also telling them that it was time to leave. They were given the opportunity to protest peacefully in a specific area and chose not to do so.”

No injuries have been reported to police following the protest.

The spokesperson said anyone who wants to make a formal complaint against police can contact the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

Global News has also contacted Scotiabank about its reported investment in an Israeli arms manufacturer, as well as for comment on Friday’s protest, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

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