June 16th, 2024

High security, protesters on hand at today’s ‘Walk with Israel’ event in Toronto

By The Canadian Press on June 9, 2024.

Supporters of Israel gather to celebrate the country's Independence Day in Montreal on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. A pro-Israel march is set to take place today in Toronto amid heightened security and a related protest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

TORONTO – Thousands of members of Toronto’s Jewish community marched through the streets of Toronto on Saturday as part of an annual pro-Israel event that’s unfolding amid heightened security and multiple protests.

The United Jewish Appeal is holding its annual “Walk with Israel,” which involves a five-kilometre walk and a festival in the city’s north end.

March participants, who were expected to turn out in record numbers, waved Israeli flags and carried posters of those taken hostage during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that triggered the latest war with Israel.

Toronto police have said they aim to “avoid confrontations” by designating certain areas for those who plan to protest the event, and they have warned that anyone engaging in criminal behaviour will be arrested. Officers from numerous other police forces are also present, and a large stretch of Bathurst Street has been blocked off for the march.

Marchers encountered two groups of protesters within the first hour of the walk, with police at one point directing a nearby parked bus to obstruct demonstrators’ view of the event. Duelling chants of “free, free Palestine” and “bring them home” rang out when the groups crossed paths.

One of the pro-Palestinian groups encountered along the march route declined a request for comment.

The United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto’s Noah Shack says “tens of thousands” are expected to attend this year’s event as a show of resilience in the face of “an explosion of hate” directed at the city’s Jewish community since the start of the latest war.

“Walk with Israel” attendees also include some people whose family members were taken hostage by Hamas.

Several groups representing Jews who oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza are urging community members to instead sit with the students at a pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Toronto campus this morning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2024.

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