It was a day of religious tension at the annual Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto in front of the Ontario Legislature. One side called for the end of "Israeli apartheid" in Palestine, while the other supported Israel and Jews belonging in Jerusalem.
Under sunny skies in Toronto on Saturday, hundreds of people, including Muslims, supporters of Palestine, members of the Jewish faith and ardent enthusiasts of the state of Israel, gathered outside of Queen’s Park for the international Quds Day rally, an annual event that stands in solidarity with Palestine and opposes Zionism and Israel’s control over Jerusalem.
Also known as Al-Quds Day, it was launched in Iran in 1979 by Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini. Conservative groups, Jewish organizations and other coalitions in support of Israel claim the day is a way to celebrate anti-Semitic hate speech.
Prior to the start of the event, Israeli supporters and members of the Jewish Defense League were at one end of Queen’s Park and Quds Day organizers and attendees were at the other. The demonstration was marred with Toronto Police and Ontario Provincial Police, who were stationed to control the site and separate opposing sides. They later established barriers with their bicycles.
As more people started to gather in front of the Ontario Legislature, tensions heightened (both with protesters and even members of the press). The situation became so hostile that a minister was detained for questioning by Toronto police officers (see video below), while others were either threatened with arrest or were escorted to one side (those in attendance had to be on the pro-Palestine side or the pro-Israel area).
One man started to yell at two photographers because he didn’t want his photo taken.
Throughout Saturday’s contentious event, several arguments broke out (see video above) and vulgar language was spewed by many on both sides, such as “f**kers,” “sickos” and “baby killers.”
Many sported the Palestinian and Israeli flags and carried placards that stated, “God gave Israel to the Jews forever,” “Khamenei Dictator Of Iran Must Go,” “Smash Islamic Terror,” “Israel is a Terrorist Regime | Israel Terrorizes Children” and “What part of ‘Jew’ rusalem don’t you get?”
Despite the significant police presence, there were no arrests made and it was overall peaceful.
Similar rallies were held across the globe, such as the cities of Chicago, Calgary, Sydney, Karachi, Beirut, Tehran, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.
Many on both sides were engaged in conversations (some at times were quite tense) at the al-Quds Day rally in Toronto.
When Queen’s Park issued a permit for organizers last week, there were a lot of people in the province who were upset.
“Canadians are upset that a major public space is going to be used by an organization about which they have no information,” said Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, in an interview with the Jewish Tribune.
“We have been given no assurances that due diligence was done and that this is not being run by a front group for Hezbollah or Hamas. The Al-Quds commemoration was a directive of the Iranian regime, so the possibility of a link exists. We want to know that Canada’s public places are not being misused by organizations that have no right being in this country.”
Meanwhile, there were many public officials who condemned the event, including Conservative Environment Minister Peter Kent, who stated that the video released from last year showed “racism” and “anti-Semitism.” However, the Sergeant-at-Arms noted that the footage was not sufficient enough to deny the organizers a permit.