Politicians, police and community leaders are seeking to reassure Montreal’s West End Jewish population following a violent clash and threats made on social media.
Concern has grown in some neighbourhoods about possible anti-Semitic attacks, and police have deployed more resources to the area.
The message from authorities comes after violence broke out between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protesters downtown last weekend, and then two men were arrested Monday night in Côte Saint-Luc on allegations of threatening the Jewish community.
“The two people were arrested, transported to our operations centre and appeared in court yesterday,” explained Danny Diotte, commander of Montreal Police station 9 in Côte Saint-Luc.
The men face charges related to social media posts in which they allegedly made anti-Semitic threats.
Diotte says there have been other online threats but so far no additional arrests have been made.
People in the West End are worried.
“The concern obviously began on Saturday when there was a demonstration at the Israeli consulate related to events in the Middle East,” Rabbi Reuben Poupko said.
More than 200 people — mostly Palestinians — have been killed in a week of fighting in Israel and the occupied territories.
Thousands demonstrated in support of Palestinians in downtown Montreal Saturday.
On Sunday, pro-Israeli demonstrators held an event downtown and reported being attacked. Attendees told Global News pro-Palestinian demonstrators threw rocks at them, spat at them, and verbally assaulted them.
“They began to throw not just stones, but bricks. This was a violent assault intended to inflict bodily harm,” said Poupko, who spoke at the pro-Israeli rally.
Fifteen people were arrested downtown, but the tension found its way to Côte Saint-Luc.
“The level of concern in the Jewish community intensified when on Instagram there were posts from members of that community that they were going to come to Côte Saint-Luc and look to make trouble,” said Poupko.
After multiple 911 calls from people who had seen the men who had made the alleged threats, police made the arrests.
“It’s up to all of us to continue to be leaders and showing tolerance and acceptance of others and the right for freedom of expression and democracy,” said Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein.
“We cannot tolerate threats and individuals coming into our city having anti-Semitic statements.“
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the anti-Semitism in Montreal on Twitter Wednesday morning, saying, ‘I am deeply disturbed by recent reports of antisemitic (sic) acts in Montreal and across the country. This intimidation and violence is absolutely unacceptable – and it must stop immediately. There is no place for hate of any kind in Canada.”
Diotte says officers in Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead and other areas with significant Jewish populations have stepped up their presence. They are working closely with Montreal investigators and the hate crimes unit. They are also collaborating with local public security forces.
“There was intimidation on social networks, there were threats on social networks. There are investigations underway,” he said, adding that more arrests could be coming for anti-Semitic threats.
Diotte wants to reassure the population that they should feel safe.
“We are present. Say to yourself, ‘the police are present.’ As soon as something happened on the ground Monday, what happened? There were arrests,” he said. He said people should not take any actions into their own hands, but call 911 if they witness any threats and officers will quickly be there to help.
“Everyone should go about their lives. There is no threat at this time to the Jewish community,” said Poupko.