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3 charged after protests outside Toronto-area synagogue hosting event marketing occupied West Bank land

Three people have been charged following hours-long protests Thursday outside a Thornhill, Ont., synagogue, police say.

The arrests are tied to three different incidents at the demonstration in the Clark Avenue W. and Bathurst Street area, York Regional Police said in a news release Friday. 

Demonstrators said they gathered to protest a real estate event that marketed occupied land in the West Bank, and counter-protesters showed up in response to a call-out from leaders of the synagogue. Police would not confirm whether the accused were with the pro-Palestinian demonstrators or with the counter-protesters.

In the first incident, police say a man was found in the crowd carrying a knife. The 40-year-old Markham man has been charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

In the second, a 32-year-old man from Vaughan allegedly assaulted a female victim. He has since been charged with assault. 

And in a third incident, a woman allegedly threatened to spray a man with coyote repellent, similar to pepper spray, amid an altercation. The 48-year-old from Vaughan has been charged with possession of a weapon dangerous to the public and assault with a weapon.

Woman allegedly kicked at protest speaks out

One woman who said she was kicked in the stomach during during Thursday’s protest spoke out about her experience to CBC Toronto.

The 24-year-old woman said her role in the protest was as a marshal to keep her group safe if things escalated. CBC Toronto is not identifying the woman because she fears for her personal safety.

The woman was with ELDV4Palestine — a pro-Palestinian group that represents locals in the Eglinton-Lawrence and Don Valley neighbourhoods. When she saw a crowd forming, she said she rushed to put herself in the middle.

“When I was doing this, there was like a flag that was being used to hit people, or something to push people. So I grabbed it so I [could] push it away,” she said. 

“It happened really fast … I just got kicked in the stomach by a guy.”

The victim said police haven’t confirmed with her if the charges stem from her assault, however she does plan to file a police report as she deals with the pain of her injuries.

Still, she said she’ll continue to participate in future protests, and doesn’t want to see anyone who committed violence to “get away with it.”

“I’m going to keep showing up and I’m going to stay on the front line.”

Police say their hate crimes prevention unit has been engaged in the cases where charges have been laid. 

“York Regional Police takes these matters seriously and is reminding the community we will not tolerate any form of hate crime,” police said in the news release.

Police are asking any witnesses or those with footage of the incidents to contact investigators or submit a tip anonymously to Crime Stoppers.

Friday’s charges come after a separate real estate event over the weekend where a man allegedly fired a nail gun at a pro-Palestinian demonstrator and yelled obscenities at others. Police have said hate was a “motivating factor” in that incident.

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