Protesters face off at rally for Hong Kong in Toronto
Hundreds of protesters faced off outside Old City Hall on Saturday during a pro-democracy rally for Hong Kong.
Nearly an even number of pro-China counter-protesters showed up at the event, leading to shouting and heated exchanges between the two sides.
Toronto police officers were on site working to keep the peace.
There is no word on whether there were any arrests at the event, though it appears physical altercations were largely avoided.
“We wanted to send a message that we stand with Hong Kong,” John told Global News ahead of the event.
He did not want his full name used citing safety concerns. He’s originally from Hong Kong and helped organize the event.
The Toronto gathering coincides with months of sometimes-violent demonstrations in the former British territory, now in their 11th weekend.
“(Violence is) not acceptable,” John said, referring to clashes between police and protesters last weekend. “We call on the Hong Kong government to respond to the protesters and also we want to call on the Canadian government to provide more support to Hong Kong.”
However, the counter-protesters at the event expressed support for the Chinese government, with one protester saying, “Hong Kong is a part of China. Everybody knows that.”
WATCH: A look at recent critical moments in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests
Gloria Fung, who helped organize the pro-democracy side of the rally, called the presence of Chinese government supporters an intimidation tactic.
“This is Canada. We have the constitutional right to freedom of expression. No one can take that from all of us,” Fung said. “They should stop intimidating all Canadians while we are exercising our constitutional right to freedom of expression.”
On Saturday in Hong Kong, several thousand teachers braved thunderstorms to take to the streets. A larger demonstration is planned for Sunday in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park.
WATCH: Hong Kong supporters met with pro-China counter protest in London
Among other demands, protesters want the complete withdrawal of a controversial bill — currently suspended — that would allow extraditions to mainland China.
They also want the Hong Kong government to launch an independent investigation into police brutality and drop all charges against protesters.
John said he anticipated counter-protesters and asked for police support to keep the peace.
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