Thousands of ‘Free Palestine’ protesters march at City Hall

Oct 13, 2023 | Canadian News, News

Thousands of Palestinian supporters marched for hours on Thanksgiving demanding a free Palestine.

The protest started at 2 p.m. in front of City Hall and lasted several hours until the crowd had reached Sherbourne TTC station.

The protest was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, an international pro-Palestine organization.

Similar protests organized by the same group were held across North America with rallies in Ottawa, New York, and San Francisco.

The event comes after attacks were launched Saturday by Hamas when they broke through the Israeli border known as the “Iron Wall.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, addressed the public in a televised speech.

“We are at war and we will win it,” he said.

“I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, police said they were maintaining their watch over Jewish places of worship.

“Earlier this week I met with leaders from Jewish communities and Palestinian communities to discuss our role as law enforcement, about public safety in our city, and how we can help our residents over the coming days and weeks,” Chief Myron Demkiw said in a statement.

“While I am advised that these communities are grateful and supportive of the work of the Toronto Police Service, this war has shaken their feelings of peace and security, here at home,” he said.

Police released surveillance photos Friday of a man wanted for a hate-related mischief incident at a mosque in the Danforth and Donlands Avenues area on Oct. 12.

The Oct. 7 attacks are the most recent of the violence and land disputes between both states that have been happening for decades. This is not the first time Palestinian and Israeli forces have gone into conflict.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a ceasefire in 2021 after Gaza had become a war zone.

Yara Shoufani, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Youth Movement, told Humber News that the significance of the weekend protest was to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“Palestinian people have, for 75 years, been resisting a violent occupation and colonization of their land, and have a right to resist under international law,” Shoufani said.

“What we call on consistently is for the Canadian public to try to get organized to support the Palestinian people’s right to resist their colonization,” she said.

She also expressed her discontent with how the media is portraying the conflict, describing it as “consistently terrible.”

“Only when Palestinians exercise their right to resist our Western media is involved in a mass condemnation of our people,” she said.

Olivia Chow, Mayor of Toronto, posted a tweet on Monday denouncing the protest.

“The rally to support Hamas at Nathan Phillips Square today is unsanctioned, without a permit and I unequivocally denounce it,” Chow said.

Permits are not needed by the city to conduct demonstrations. The official municipal website reads “Permits are not issued for demonstrations or parades by either the TPS nor the City of Toronto.”

None of the Palestinian Youth Movement leaders were ever heard announcing support for the acts done by Hamas.

Chow later apologized for her tweet, stating it sent the wrong message and did not communicate well enough.

“It was a mistake on my part,” she said.

Abubakr Mohammed, a protester who showed up in solidarity with the Palestinians, was asked what he thought the protest represented.

“The protest is about resistance, it’s about liberation,” Mohammed said.

He clarified the protests were not in support of Hamas but “in support of the people of Palestine who have gone through immense suffering for years.

“Since the voices of those suffering in Palestine are never heard, it’s high time we became the voice they desperately need,” he said.

Humber News reached out to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, but they did not respond to requests for comment.

Nicole Amiel, in charge of media relations at the CIJA, said in an email her team cannot answer all media requests, redirecting Humber News to an official statement instead.

The statement expresses their concern for the Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian Youth Movement.

“They regularly glorify and celebrate violence and terror,” the statement said regarding both groups.

“The fact that we now see hundreds of people in the streets rallying in support of Hamas’ barbarity is no surprise since these groups have operated without impunity,” the email statement said.

The statement was also uploaded on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The email said, “Until the status of these groups is addressed, and they are rightfully listed as terrorist entities in Canada, we will continue to see such hatred in our streets.”

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, said he was “in regular contact” with the RCMP about their efforts in keeping Jewish communities and their institutions safe.

“I have every confidence that they are treating these concerns with the utmost importance and will continue to exercise heightened vigilance around places of significance to the Jewish community,” he said.

Pro-Palestinian protests were banned or shut down Friday in France, Germany, and Austria, and police battled with protesters in Italy.

Humber College alongside the University of Guelph-Humber stated on Oct. 10 in regards to the events that occurred during the weekend.

“We condemn terrorism, violence, antisemitism, and all forms of hate and discrimination,” Humber said.

The statement said they were “saddened and disturbed” by the attacks.