Speech at pro-Palestine protest in Vancouver investigated as hate crime

A 44-year-old Vancouver woman made comments praising the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and referring to terrorist organizations as “heroes,” the VPD says.

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Police arrested a 44-year-old Vancouver woman for allegedly making hate crime comments at a pro-Palestine protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery over the weekend.

VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison said a criminal investigation was opened Sunday based on what was said at the meeting.

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“We defend everyone’s right to assemble and express their opinions, even when those opinions are unpopular or controversial,” Addison said. “We also have a responsibility to ensure that public comments do not promote or incite hatred, encourage violence or make people feel unsafe.”

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Video of the incendiary speech has circulated widely on social media, with many saying his calls for a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” and explicitly praising the deadly Hamas attacks of October 7 were direct threats to Israel and the Jews.

The woman, speaking into a microphone on the gallery steps in front of several hundred protesters, “referred to several terrorist organizations as heroes,” Addison said in a statement released Wednesday.

“Parts of the video have been widely shared on social media and viewed several hundred thousand times,” he said.

Investigators identified the speaker at the protest and she was released while the investigation continues, Addison added.

“We will continue to thoroughly investigate every hate incident and pursue criminal charges whenever there is evidence of a hate crime.”

Addison said the evidence will be presented to prosecutors for evaluation once the investigation concludes.

Sunday’s protest was followed by a camp set up Monday at the University of British Columbia, where about 20 tents were set up on MacInnes Field along with Palestinian flags and pro-Palestine banners denouncing Israel.

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BC Premier David Eby called on UBC and student leaders to balance freedom of expression with people’s personal safety.

Eby and other politicians have denounced the event, in which protesters were heard chanting “long live October 7,” praising the attack, which killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, as “the most hateful” attack imaginable.

“Celebrating the murder, the rape of innocent people who were attending a music festival, is horrible,” Eby said at a news conference Monday.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim also took issue with the demonstration, calling it a “celebration of terrorism and anti-Semitism,” as did Vancouver Granville MP Taleeb Noormohamed and BC United leader Kevin Falcon.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have frequently denounced Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza, which has led to more than 34,000 Palestinian deaths, according to the local Health Ministry.

With files from The Canadian Press

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