quds day protests toronto

Toronto Police warn of traffic chaos with 14 different protests planned for the weekend

Expect to see plenty of cops, and probably a whole lot of brake lights in snarled traffic this weekend, with a whopping 14 different protests set to take place in the heart of the city, all within the span of two days.

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer briefed the public in a Friday morning press conference, warning of traffic disruptions and an increased police presence downtown over the weekend.

"The public will notice an increased police presence in and around the demonstration areas and we will be implementing both rolling and static road closures with the objective of safely redirecting people and traffic," said Ramer.

"While you're encouraged to go about your business, we ask for your patience and we will work to safely manage large volumes of cars and people throughout the city."

But despite there being over a dozen different demonstrations planned this weekend, Ramer dedicated the bulk of his press conference discussing one particular event out of the many taking place in the coming days.

Among the demonstrations planned for this weekend, an Al-Quds Day protest scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the downtown core has been the subject of concerns over antisemitism and hate speech, and with counter-protests bringing the potential for confrontation, a heavy police presence is expected.

"While the Toronto Police Service will always support peaceful demonstration, I want to be very clear that we will not tolerate any intimidation, harassment or hate-motivated behaviour aimed at specific communities," said Ramer.

Quds Day, an event held annually in support of Palestine and in opposition to Israel, was not held in Toronto for the last couple of years due to the pandemic, but previous events have drawn criticism from politicians including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who called for the event to be banned in 2018.

Supporters of the event, which was created by the Iranian state shortly after its 1979 Revolution, view it as a public show of opposition to what many in the Muslim world consider an occupation of Palestine. The event is seen by some in the Jewish community as a display of antisemitism.

"We have received several complaints that hateful speech has been overheard at recent events. I think we can all agree that there is no place for this. I want to reassure those who have these concerns that, like all demonstrations, the Toronto Police Service will be visibly present and actively monitoring these events," said Ramer.

Ramer states that "in addition to a visible frontline officer presence we will also have officers from our dedicated hate crime unit on the ground to be able to immediately gather evidence to investigate any suspected hate crimes or hate speech or signage the service will embed officers who speak different languages so they can record firsthand what is being said amongst the crowds and in speeches."

It's a dangerously complex issue that nobody is expecting to find answers to in a brief article about traffic from a local media outlet, but it offers an idea of the kind of delicate political and ethnic tensions Toronto cops will be doing their best to diffuse over the weekend.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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