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Pro-Palestinian protesters say cops used excessive force; Toronto police reject claim

Pro-Palestinian groups say Toronto police officers used an excessive and unwarranted amount of premeditated force against protesters at a march on Saturday that ended with multiple charges, arrests and injuries. Police clash with protesters outside a fundraising event for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Toronto, Friday, March 15, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey

TORONTO — Pro-Palestinian groups have accused Toronto police of making advanced plans to use increased force against protesters at a weekend rally, an allegation police firmly rejected.

Gur Tsabar of Jews Say No to Genocide said that compared to the dozens of other protests organized since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, police conduct was markedly more aggressive at Saturday's rally. 

Police spokeswoman Stephanie Sayer said the conduct of officers over the weekend "mirrored past demonstrations, with a consistent deployment of officers and the Mounted Unit on standby for crowd control." 

"Police employed appropriate and necessary force to preserve public and officer safety while maintaining order during protest activity, particularly when faced with violence and aggression," she added.

Protest organizers alleged in a news release on Sunday that police "followed demonstrators for three hours until suddenly, hundreds of riot and mounted police on horses (outfitted with visors) arrived" and "the police on the ground created a barricade."

Rejecting that charge, Sayer said "protesters were free to depart the event at any time." 

Protest leaders further alleged police began using force "without warning," with several people thrown to the ground and at least four sent to hospital. 

Sayer said police had "received no reports of injuries."

Toronto police have said three people were charged during Saturday's march, including one woman accused of assaulting an officer, another who allegedly threw horse manure at police, and a man who was driving a truck with people in the bed of the vehicle.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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