Arrests made at protests outside Thornhill synagogue: police

Arrests were made at two protests outside a synagogue in Thornhill, York Regional Police say.

YRP spokesperson Sgt. Andy Pattenden confirmed the arrests to CTV News Toronto, but did not provide further details on how many were detained and what led police to detain them.

Thornhill protest arrest

“York Regional Police will conduct a thorough investigation into any criminal incident. We encourage residents and protesters to remain peaceful and act lawfully,” Pattenden said in an email statement.

Thursday’s demonstration was the third to take place near the synagogue at Clark Avenue West and York Hill Boulevard.

Two dueling groups, one with Palestinian flags and the other with Israeli flags, were seen lining up on opposite sides of the street with officers between them to keep them apart.

Chopper 24 captured a fight between several members of the two groups, but officers quickly broke it up.

Thornhill protest

Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said Thursday morning that police have a plan to ensure order before the protest.

The synagogue, in the Bathurst Street and Clark Avenue area of ​​Vaughan, was the site of another protest yesterday and another over the weekend, in which one person was charged for allegedly bringing a nail gun.

Pro-Palestinian activists have taken issue with an event at the synagogue for those interested in purchasing real estate in Israel. Activists say the event includes promoting real estate purchases in the West Bank, land that Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and that the Palestinians want for a future state. The organizers have denied this.

A joint statement issued Thursday by the area’s elected representatives said many community members are deeply concerned about the protests at the synagogue.

“We share these concerns. It is unacceptable that a place of worship, or nearby schools and daycares, would be attacked in this manner,” read the statement, co-signed by Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca, Rep. Melissa Lantsman and the MP Laura Smith and local councilor Gila Martow.

“The right to peacefully protest is an important freedom afforded to all Canadians. But this freedom does not give people the right to incite hatred, make threats or engage in violence.”

The statement said York Regional Police have an operational plan for the day to protect all residents and maintain order at the synagogue, as well as a nearby community center.

In a statement before the protest, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs said the protests are part of a “campaign of harassment and intimidation” targeting the city’s Jewish community.

“The motive behind these protests is clear: to attack and intimidate the Jewish community,” the statement said. “While freedom of opinion and expression is fundamental in a democratic society, violence, harassment and intimidation unequivocally cross the line.”

The group is calling for provincial legislation to ensure safe access to “institutions that serve vulnerable members of racialized, ethnocultural and religious communities, including places of worship, community centres, schools and hospitals.”

Another protest several weeks ago drew heavy criticism from the medical community when protesters climbed to the top of Mount Sinai Hospital in downtown Toronto. The protesters claimed they were addressing a larger protest at the Israeli consulate and were not actively targeting the hospital, which has strong affiliations with the Jewish community.

Trudeau says some of the protests have crossed a line

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said people have the right to express their “distress” and protest the war between Israel and Hamas, but when protests turn into harassment of fellow citizens, “a line is crossed.”

“Canadians have absolutely the right to protest; to make other Canadians hear their anguish and their anger. That’s important too. We will always protect that right. But when protests turn into hate or harassment, particularly against fellow Canadians, there is a line that has been crossed,” Trudeau said.

The Prime Minister made the comments during a meeting with reporters at an unrelated event at Women’s College Hospital in downtown Toronto on Thursday. He was asked about the numerous protests that have taken place in Toronto, including one last week that forced him to cancel an event he was scheduled to attend with the Italian prime minister at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Trudeau said that while “no one can remain indifferent to the suffering and anguish that is occurring in Gaza right now,” he has also heard from many people who feel attacked and harassed by the protests, which have sometimes taken place in businesses. Jewish-owned, community centers and synagogues.

“I’ve heard from many members of the Jewish community in particular, who are seeing their synagogues or community centers and their neighborhoods protesting,” Trudeau said. “People feel unsafe in their own country. I know Canadians have very strong feelings about this conflict, and rightly so, it’s horrible things we’re seeing, but it’s not us taking it out on our fellow Canadians.”

He added that “hateful or harassing behavior, particularly against neighbors, is not what we do here in Canada.”

With files from The Canadian Press


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