Toronto police say they are aware of a possible threat from a German pro-ISIS group that identifies the Toronto Pride Parade as an “excellent target” for an attack.
Dalhousie University professor Amarnath Amarasingam, who researches foreign fighters at the University of Waterloo, told Global News he found the post online among about 50 other pro-ISIS channels he monitors.
“It only really appears on one telegram channel, I haven’t been able to find any reference to Toronto anywhere else,” he said, adding that the channel is run by a group of “German ISIS fanboys.” “I don’t know what to make of it really.”
The post in question shows a digital illustration of a handgun resting on a wooden tabletop next to a cup of coffee, beside a sticky note that lists the start time of the July 3 parade.
“Parade is an excellent target,” the post reads. “Plenty of kafir sodomites to kill.”
The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute also reported on the alleged threat, which stated that similar threats showed images of sites in New York City.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said they are aware of the post but declined to speak directly to the possibility of a threat to the parade.
“I’m not going to discuss specific threats other than to say we’re aware of it,” he said.
“What I can tell you is that we have people whose job is nothing other than monitoring threats to the city and we do that 24 hours a day seven days a week and we adjust our security levels, which we monitor regularly, whenever necessary.”
Organizers of Toronto’s gay pride festivities declined to speak directly to the threat, but reiterated that the celebrations would go ahead as planned amid increased security.
“The Toronto Police Service and the RCMP have worked with Pride Toronto to develop a solid security plan. We trust that the security measures in place will create a safe and welcoming environment for our community. The Pride Parade will proceed as planned,” Victoria Schwarzl said in an emailed statement, adding that police continue to monitor any “new developments.”
“Pride Toronto will not contribute to a culture of fear by responding to threats. Instead, we will continue to focus on creating a safe space for our community and city to enjoy the remainder of Pride Month.”
Pride organizers met representatives of the RCMP, city police and the prime minister’s office on Monday to discuss security concerns.
Mathieu Chantelois, executive director of Pride Toronto, refused to comment on any specifics, but said more uniformed police would be on hand while more plainclothes officers and others would both mingle with, and keep watch on, the crowds.
Chantelois called it a blessing that Justin Trudeau is slated to be the first sitting prime minister to take part in the parade, adding that Trudeau will bring the security expertise of the RCMP with him.
Amarasingam said the channel is not popular among members of the pro-ISIS community, but believes the post was made to point to the possibility of the Pride Parade as a target — not necessarily to a specific attack.
“The channel is not very well known, it’s not very active and it’s the only channel that this was posted on, it didn’t show up on any other active kind of fan boy channels,” he said.
“It’s not really a direct threat it’s more like, ‘If you’re interested in doing something here’s an option.'”
With a file from The Canadian Press