Man wearing hate symbol harassing people in downtown Toronto park
An anti-Jewish incident in a Toronto park captured on video shows how ugly hate can be.
A Toronto mother was doing her regular morning walk with her baby on King Street on July 6 when she noticed a man in Stanley Park.
"He had a big swastika (drawn with a black marker) on his left breast and I just did a double-take," Steph, who asked to use her first name for this article, tells blogTO. "And when I looked back he said 'You’re a dirty Jew, aren't you?'"
She left her baby with her friend at that point to confront the man. He kept repeating the slurs and saluting Hitler, she says.
The man, who appeared to be of Asian descent, told her she wasn't part of the Ayran race. Another man came to support Steph. He, along with his wife, had a similar encounter. The man allegedly threw a Sharpie at the man's wife.
The man continued to circle the park and shout racial slurs. Steph recorded one encounter and the video shows the man walking toward the camera.
"Hi Jew," he says.
"Hey, what's up?" Steph says.
"Not much," he says, then adds. "Jewish much?"
"Proud of it, proud of it," she responds.
"You like your history right?"
"Look, I'm still standing," she says and the video ends.
Steph says several people came to support her.
"I was thankful for the people who showed solidarity," she says. "There were tons of people behind me."
Eventually someone flagged down a police car and officers spoke with the man.
When asked about the incident, Toronto Police Services said that there is an ongoing investigation. As of July 8, no hate crime charges had been laid.
Toronto Police Services Constable David Hopkinson tells blogTO that Michael Park, 32, of Toronto was charged with assault with a weapon related to an incident in Stanley Park at 845 King St. W. on July 6, at 8 a.m.
He was also issued provincial offence tickets for interfering with the enjoyment of a park by others and the use of profane/abusive language in a park. He is scheduled to appear in court at a later date.
Steph is hoping a hate crime charge will be laid later.
Incidents of Jewish hate are on the rise, says Sami Cooper, founder of Toronto Jewish Advocacy who posted the video on Instagram.
"I think it is very heroic what this mother did," Cooper says, noting that Steph had her baby with her but she still confronted the man.
She says people aren't speaking out about Jewish hate and Jewish people are afraid right now.
"People aren't talking antisemitism."
The victim group most targeted in 2020 with hate crimes was the Jewish community with 63 occurrences, according to the Toronto Police Services 2020 Hate Crime Report.
Overall hate crimes increased from 139 in 2019 to 210 representing an increase of approximately 51 per cent.
As a Toronto resident, Steph says she has never had this type of encounter. She felt strongly about approaching the man in the park and confront him.
"My grandparents survived the Holocaust. I am Jewish and to me that hits really close to home," she says.
Everyone in her grandfather's family died in the Holocaust and Steph said she heard the stories growing up.
"There's no way I am going to let this slide," she says. "I needed to stand up for what was right."
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