EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story said the group Never Again Canada claimed responsibility for the protest when in fact they had just attended.
A small group of protesters demonstrated outside of a mosque in downtown Toronto Friday with signs, banners and megaphones calling for the banning of Islam while people prayed inside.
Toronto Police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said protesters gathered outside the Masjid Toronto, a mosque near Dundas Street West and Chestnut Street, for an “anti-Islamic protest” with signs just after noon.
Douglas-Cook added a group of up to 50 protesters marched from 361 University Avenue to the mosque while police maintained the peace nearby.
Some of the signs posted on social media from the protest showed hateful slogans such as “Say No To Islam,” “Ban Islam,” “Muslims Are Terrorists” and “Less Islam Brings Less Terror No Islam No Terror.”
“My coworker and I came downstairs because we could hear it from the 21st floor and we saw the signs and people screaming through a megaphone about horrible, hateful things about Muslims,” said Tera Goldblatt, who works nearby.
“There were probably about 15 people with signs, big, big banners, megaphone, screaming about all this crazy stuff.”
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Estelle Amaron, who lives nearby, said she saw a video of the protest on social media and decided to drop off a card outside the mosque to show her support for the Muslim community.
“I just want people to just get along and just know that we’re all part of this country. Most of us are immigrants or come from immigrants and nobody’s here to say you can’t.”
Bryant Greenbaum said he was walking in the area when he saw the protest, which he described as “disgusting.”
“People are going to espouse hate, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.
“And it’s one thing to say you’re espousing freedom of expression a few blocks away, but right in front of a place of worship?”
Mohamed Abdi, a member of the mosque, said he was disappointed after hearing of the demonstration.
“It’s pretty sad and a little bit surprising since I’ve been seeing so much positive responses lately so it’s a little bit sad to hear that that happened,” he said.
“I think that people who still want to come for Friday Prayer and just in general are hopefully still going to come but it could be the opposite.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a tweet that “Islamophobia has NO place in our city,” adding he had visited Masjid Toronto many times and he denounces “all acts of hatred towards our Muslim citizens.”
Kristyn Wong-Tam, a Toronto city councillor, made a similar statement on social media and called the protest “awful.”
Members of a group called Never Again Canada attended the protest. Photos from the event were published on the group’s Facebook page, along with a post that said it was in “support of free speech.”
Abdi said members of the mosque would be holding an open house on Feb. 25 to have a conversation with Muslim and non-Muslim community members s they can learn more about the mosque.
“It’s a good time to have a conversation to see a community maybe different than yours and to meet some good positive people,” he said.
With files from Adam Dabrowski