Police hound counter-protesters at Al-Quds Day event
August 21, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
TORONTO – Tempers flared, violence erupted and pro-Israel supporters were threatened with arrest during the contentious Al-Quds Day protest and counter-protests.
About 300 people from a wide variety of religious and secular movements, including the Jewish Defence League, responded to a call for a counter-protest. Many individuals also showed up on their own.
Angry words and blows were exchanged between people on the two opposing sides.
Businessman Allan Einstoss said he was shoved by a Muslim man who objected to the presence of his English Mastiff, Cupcake. Einstoss claims that when he pushed the man back, he was “jumped” by four police officers, who handcuffed him but ignored the alleged instigator.
Video and photos posted on the blog by Blazing Cat Fur substantiate some of Einstoss’s claims but the violence is obscured.
According to Einstoss, police said he was inciting a riot and being insensitive by bringing his dog with him, but they wouldn’t charge him if he left immediately.
“The police chose to trump my rights of free and unfettered access to a public space with the cultural mores and preferences [of some Muslims].... They’re supposed to be neutral,” said Einstoss.
As news of Einstoss’s experience spread online, a man phoned him and threatened, “We’re going to get you, you dirty Jew.”
George B., who asked that his last name not be used, said he was at Queen’s Park to show his support for Israel and inadvertently sustained a bloody cut on his arm caused by two men who were scuffling over a flag.
“I was trampled,” said George.
Police allegedly threatened high school teacher Stefan Santamaria with arrest for inciting violence because he was wearing an Israel Defence Forces t-shirt and carrying an Israeli flag on University Avenue. They permitted him to stay on the sidewalk but kept close tabs on him. He claims that, although he did not interact with any of the anti-Israel protesters in any way, one officer yelled at him and called him a “s**t disturber.”
Santamaria said, “more than just supporting Israel, I’m here because I’d like to oppose the message I hear from these people: it’s one of hate, it’s very un-Canadian and it’s very scary.”
Constantin Socalski said that, when police told him Israel supporters were not supposed to follow the march, he furtively removed his kippa, after which he was not approached again. When the protest disbanded, Socalski pulled his kippa out of his bag and put it back on his head.
Einstoss, Santamaria and Socalski each said they had attended on their own and were not members of the JDL.
Video posted online also shows police stopping a Christian minister from speaking at Queen’s Park and physically removing him from the scene.
Toronto Police Service did not respond to the Tribune’s request for an interview prior to this paper’s deadline.