Pro-Palestinian protesters say cops used excessive force; Toronto police reject claim

TORONTO — Pro-Palestinian groups say Toronto police had planned in advance to use increased levels of force against protesters at a weekend rally, an allegation firmly rejected by police.

Guy Tsabar of Jews Say No to Genocide says that compared to the dozens of other protests organized since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, police conduct was markedly different at Saturday's rally.

Police spokeswoman Stephanie Sayer says the conduct of officers this weekend "mirrored" previous demonstrations, with a deployment of officers and mounted units consistent with recent protests.

Protest organizers alleged in a press release on Sunday that police had been following the march for three hours when "suddenly" demonstrators were barricaded by anti-riot forces and mounted officers — a claim also dismissed by police.

Protest leaders allege police began using force "without warning," with several people thrown to the ground and at least four sent to hospital.

Toronto police have said three people were charged during Saturday's march, including one woman accused of assaulting an officer, another who allegedly threw horse manure at police, and a man who was driving a truck with people in the bed of the vehicle.

Sayer said "police employed appropriate and necessary force to preserve public and officer safety while maintaining order during protest activity, particularly when faced with violence and aggression."

Challenging the allegations that demonstrators were barricaded and that people were injured, Sayer added that "protesters were free to depart the event at any time and we have received no reports of injuries."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2024.

The Canadian Press