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Toronto police make arrests during weekend protest, draw criticism from demonstrators

Click to play video: 'Demonstrators allege Toronto police brutality'
Demonstrators allege Toronto police brutality
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators allege that Toronto police tactics are increasingly restrictive and hostile. Organizers of a weekend protest march said their rights were infringed. One woman was arrested after police said she threw horse manure at one of the officers. Sean O’Shea reports – Apr 1, 2024

Pro-Palestinian groups allege Toronto Police officers are enforcing rules selectively at organized protests after seven people were arrested and at least three charged during a demonstration on Saturday.

The Toronto Police Service issued a statement saying its officers were conducting crowd management at a demonstration in the Gerrard Street and Parliament Street area when they arrested and charged multiple people.

A man who was allegedly observed during the protest driving a truck with people in the bed of the vehicle has been charged with stunt driving and has had his license suspended for 30 days.

Police allege that while officers were seizing the man’s truck, the crowd became “aggressive and assaultive” and a 24-year-old woman threw horse manure at officers.

Investigators say she was later charged with assault, along with a 27-year-old woman who police allege used a flagpole to spear at an officer.

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Police say they also arrested four males at the demonstration but later released three of them without conditions. One of them was wanted after the demonstration on an unrelated matter and has since been turned over to provincial police.

Police did not give details on why the males were arrested and then released, but noted in their statement that releasing someone does not mean they cannot be charged at a later date and their investigation is still active.

A news release issued by demonstrators alleges police followed the protest for three hours before hundreds of officers with riot gear and on horses arrived on Saturday and barricaded their movement, immediately escalating their “brutality against pro-Palestinian demonstrators.”

Gur Tsabar, spokesperson for Jews Say No to Genocide, said in the news release that police were making selective use of the “obscure” Highway Traffic Act as a pretext for arresting demonstrators. The statement said protesters have been “in the beds of trucks moving at the speed of parade floats” several times while in police presence during the many pro-Palestinian protests that have taken place since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7.

“After five solid months of chanting week after week from the beds of very-slow-moving trucks and their attached trailers, Toronto police suddenly became ‘very concerned’ for our road safety,” said Tsabar.

“Truly — kudos to the Toronto Police for following orders so diligently and digging up an obscure Highway Traffic Act in a last-ditch effort to shut down our Charter-protected right to protest.”

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Police, however, responded in their statement that they have cautioned demonstration organizers, and drivers specifically, about not having people riding in truck beds or on attached trailers while in motion, adding the rules are spelled out in the Highway Traffic Act.

“Police have been clear that this stipulation will be in effect at all demonstrations,” the statement said.

“Toronto Police continue to attend demonstrations, and to preserve people’s right to protest while also enforcing the law.”

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