Toronto police to bar anti-Israel protests from Avenue Road Bridge

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The protests that have intimidated Toronto’s Jewish community by congregating on the Avenue Road overpass will no longer be allowed, Toronto police announced on Thursday.

In a press release Thursday morning, Chief Myron Demkiw said that protests had escalated, and that there was a threat to public safety.

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“Moving forward, demonstrations or the congregation of individuals on the Avenue Road overpass will not be permitted. People can expect to be arrested if necessary,” said Demkiw in his statement.

Police also announced that a protester, Maged Sameh Hilal Al Khalaf, had been charged with public incitement of hatred for allegedly carrying a flag of an unidentified banned terrorist group. That incident occurred, police said, at a protest last Sunday near Nathan Phillips square.

“Hate and intimidation can have no space in our city and we have been unwavering in our commitment to restore the sense of public safety, and not tolerate behaviour that crosses the line to criminal activity,” Demkiw said.

The bridge, which crosses Highway 401, is within a five-minute drive of more a dozen synagogues and one of Canada’s densest concentrations of kosher bakeries. It’s one kilometre from Elie Wiesel Park, named after the famed Romanian-born author and Holocaust survivor. It’s within walking distance of at least eight Hebrew schools.

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Toronto is the acknowledged centre of the Canadian Jewish community, and this section of the city is its nucleus.

Michael Levitt, who heads up the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, is the former Liberal MP for the surrounding riding of York Centre.

“The targeting of the Avenue Road overpass in north Toronto by the anti-Israel mob is far from random,” Levitt wrote on Dec. 31, just as the bridge became a focal point for the city’s anti-Israel demonstrations. Levitt called it an “attempt to intimidate the local Jewish community.”

With additional reporting from Tristin Hopper

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