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3 charged following downtown Toronto protest: police

Three people are facing charges following a pro-Palestinian demonstration in downtown Toronto Saturday afternoon.

The demonstration moved from Yonge and Dundas streets through other parts of the downtown core, eventually ending near Parliament at Front streets around 8:30 p.m.

In a post on social media shortly after 8 p.m., Toronto police said five demonstrators had been arrested near Parliament and Gerrard streets.

In a news release Sunday, police allege a man was driving a truck while there were occupants in the bed of the truck. Officers said they have cautioned demonstration organizers against doing this, as stipulated in the Highway Traffic Act, adding this will be in effect at all protests.

The driver of the truck is facing a stunt driving charge. His vehicle has been impounded for 14 days and his driver’s licence suspended for 30 days.

According to police, while they were seizing the truck, demonstrators “became aggressive and assaultive” towards them.

Police allege one woman threw horse manure at officers while another woman “intentionally used a flagpole to ‘spear’ at an officer.”

Assia Rami, 24, and Celeste Xiaoying Furlotte-Bois, 27, have been charged with assaulting a peace officer with a weapon. The charges have not been tested in court.

Toronto police further allege that several people intervened as they were making their arrest, prompting four males to be arrested for breach of the peace.

Later, police said three were released unconditionally, while one was wanted on a warrant for an unrelated matter and turned over to Ontario Provincial Police. In an Instagram post, Palestinian Youth Movement Toronto said they protested outside of the 51 Division Saturday for hours, demanding the release of all who were arrested during the demonstration.

The protest was calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, a complete arms embargo, the blockade in Gaza to be lifted and sanctions on Israel.

On Sunday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 32,782 Palestinians – majority women and children – have been killed since the start of the war, which started on Oct. 7 when Hamas-led militants stormed south Israel’s border and killed 1,200 people.

The Palestinian Youth Movement Toronto also shared videos of the demonstration on social media, where officers can be seen using force, drawing concerns from demonstrators.

In a statement, Toronto Police Service said officers employed “the necessary force” to preserve safety while also maintaining order among demonstrators, “particularly when faced with violence and aggression.”

“We cannot speak to this individual’s allegations. We have not received any reports of injuries,” a spokesperson for Toronto police told CP24, adding anyone who wishes to make a formal complaint against them can do so through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)

The Toronto Police Association said officers ensured demonstrators could protest “safely, peacefully and respectfully,” and asked for the same level of respect that is extended to protesters.

“When protesters choose to commit criminal acts, they will be arrested either immediately or later. When protesters block roads and infrastructure, that impacts our ability to responds to emergency calls,” the association wrote in a statement shared on X.

NDP MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam issued a statement after seeing the video, supporting the protesters’ Charter rights to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly.

“While these rights are not unlimited, it does not appear that the extraordinarily high bar required to infringe on these fundamental freedoms was met,” Wong-Tam wrote. “Torontonians have a right to demonstrate and proclaim their solidarity with civilians in Gaza. These do not cease to operate when they are exercised in a largely racialized neighbourhood such as Regent Park.”

“Both local residents and march participants were intimidated by the swift escalation initiated by law enforcement, resulting in some individuals being forcefully pushed to the ground. I am informed that the police reportedly issued no audible or repeated warnings to the group of marchers or bystanders before these altercations and subsequent arrests,” Wong-Tam continued.

The statement ended by calling on transparency and accountability from Toronto police, asking for a detailed account of their actions and reasons behind the arrests.

The protest organizations announced in a news release that they will be holding a press conference outside of Toronto police headquarters on College Street at 11 a.m. on Monday to discuss Saturday’s protest.

With files from CP24’s Joshua Freeman and The Associated Press

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