About 500 Al Quds supporters took to public space outside the University Ave. courthouse to spew their anti-Israel vitriol Saturday afternoon.
Their unpermitted hatefest continued as they blocked University Ave. marching north accompanied by a phalanx of Toronto Police officers on bikes, on horses and on foot.
By my count there were upwards of 100 officers on site.
Observers who’d attended in previous years said the Al Quds numbers were down. But their script was the same, including a large number children looking to be younger than 10 brandishing hateful placards — manufactured and provided to the crowd — that called Israel an “apartheid state,” urged boycotts of Israel, pictured bloodied children and made outrageous claims such as “Israel kills one Palestinian child every 60 hours for the past 14 years.”
Farman Ali, who ran the proceedings, contended there are people in attendance “proclaiming they are journalists” and advised those in the crowd not to talk to these allegedly fake journalists.
At one point Ali asked the crowd how many kids Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayanu had killed today, a theme he repeated several times.
Socialist activist Robert Mahood claimed the usual tropes that Israel and Zionists have only a “tiny number of friends” but those they do have are huge “power brokers” with billions of dollars.
Dimitri Lascaris, the lawyer who acts for the Al Quds organizers and who appeared at City Hall several times claiming the rally was not hateful, took aim at Councillor James Pasternak, Mayor John Tory and “Thug” Ford (his words for the Premier) for making what he called “false claims” about those who attend Al Quds Day rally.
He called Pasternak, Tory and Ford “fanatical supporters of an apartheid regime.”
At one point he singled me out for being in attendance and for writing for the “Islamophobic, far right” Toronto Sun.
Across Armoury St. about three dozen members of the Jewish community and the Jewish Defense League were penned into a small area and watched closely by police.
Doc von Lichtenburg, gay and Jewish, said he’s been attending the Al Quds protest for eight years and is really surprised with the poor showing they had this year.
He called it “disgraceful” that the Al Quds supporters were able to occupy city space and block University Ave. without a permit.
“These guys do what they want and the City of Toronto is too afraid to speak up,” he said. “The taxpayers of Toronto are paying for the police presence … I think that’s terrible.”
A series of motions passed at council two weeks ago direct city staff and police to issue trespass warnings and seek reimbursement for policing if protesters spewing hate occupy city property without a permit — as occurred Saturday.
The motions also ask police and the attorney general to take “swift and immediate action” against any group advocating anti-Semitism.
It remains to be seen whether the city will follow through on this.