Fight breaks out at vigil for Iran plane crash victims in Toronto
Thousands of people attended a set of vigils in Toronto on Thursday night for victims of the tragic Ukrainian International Airlines plane crash that killed 176 passengers — 63 of them Canadian — just minutes after their flight took off from Tehran, Iran, earlier this week.
See photos of the vigil at Mel Lastman Square in this photo gallery.
Taking place just hours after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the passenger plane had been shot down by Iranian surface-to-air missiles, both vigils were tense and pervaded by an air of sorrow.
The vigil for victims of Flight 752 at North York Civic Centre, in fact, saw tensions rise to the point of a physical altercation breaking out between protesters, attendees and security staff.
Security at North York Civic Centre throwing out protestors at the Iran Vigil in Toronto #IranPlaneCrash @globalnewsto pic.twitter.com/hKzZp9R8KT— James Davidson (@JD_Camera) January 10, 2020
Video footage shared on Twitter shows a small group of people chanting outside the civic centre's packed council chambers, where a vigil staged by the Iranian Canadian Congress was taking place.
The protestors were said to be chanting "death to the Islamic republic of Iran" in Farsi.
Another attendee took up issue with the fact that they were using the vigil to stage a political demonstration.
"The other guy is basically saying have some respect, this is not about that, we're here to pay our respects," wrote one Twitter user in a loose translation of what happened during the verbal spat.
Commotion now as a man, who I’m told is chanting anti-Iranian regime slogans, is prevented from entering the vigil inside. pic.twitter.com/YkxYqIhxNj— Ben Spurr (@BenSpurr) January 9, 2020
The attendee who was asking protesters to show respect later spoke inside council chambers about his cousin, who was one of many Torontonians killed in the Iran plane crash on Wednesday.
That man stepped back and security took over, just before things got violent.
As security guards attempted to lead one of the apparent protest leaders out of the building, someone from the crowd appears to have jumped out and punched him in the head.
The protestor fell to the ground, where an unidentified man proceeded to tackle and elbow him.
Iranian exile politics in a nutshell: 'Some of the attendees were being accused of being part of the current Iranian regime and some were accused of being spies.' https://t.co/UNykSfAl8O— Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒 (@borzou) January 10, 2020
Security eventually got the protester off the ground and walked him out the front of the North York Civic Centre while he and his compatriots continued chanting loudly.
Global News reports that some of the attendees were "being accused of being part of the current Iranian regime and some were accused of being spies."
On Twitter, several people have identified the protest leader as Nasser Pooli Mamaghani, an alleged pro-war lobbyist and bidet salesman known for "harassing" Canadian-Iranian pro-peace activists.
Thread on the radical and small group of protestors and their connections with pro war politicians:https://t.co/9MPHqA506R— Pouyan Tabasinejad 🌹 (@PTabasinejad) January 10, 2020
Fortunately, a different vigil taking place at the same time in Toronto's Mel Lastman Square was more peaceful — albeit just as sad for those who knew victims of the Iran plane crash tragedy.
"In the face of an atrocious act, Canadians come together at Mel Lastman Square to tell families of #Flight752 that we love you and stand with you," wrote York Centre MP Roman Baber of the event.
"A hauntingly familiar scene in Mel Lastman Square tonight as the Willowdale community is touched again by tragedy and violence," wrote Markus O'Brien Fehr, community organizer and Chief of Staff to Councillor John Fillion .
"Together we stand in solidarity, love and sadness."
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