A protester is held back from Palestinians at an Al-Quds rally is held at Queen's Park in Toronto on Saturday, August 18, 2012. Jewish Groups gathered as a counter-protest and clashes broke out between the two sides.
Credits: Veronica Henri/QMI Agency
TORONTO -- Police may have been "overzealous" in their handling of two Jewish protesters during an anti-Israel rally on the lawn of the provincial legislature last Saturday, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Spokeswoman Noa Mendelsohn Aviv said Tuesday there may have been a "problematic" double standard on the part of officers who allegedly threatened to charge a Jewish man who arrived at an Al-Quds Day rally carrying a large Israeli flag, as well as officers who allegedly handcuffed another man for bringing his dog to the Islamic demonstration.
"It appears, based on these incidents, that the police were being overzealous in their reactions to counter-protesters," Aviv said. "Toronto police need to exercise their authority to protect both the rights of protestors and of counter-protesters, who also have a right to express their opinions and to use public space for this purpose."
Al-Quds Day was started in Iran to mark the end of Ramadan and to call for the destruction of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Following Saturday's rally, video footage surfaced of a Jewish protester who rode up to the rally on a bike carrying a large Israeli flag.
In the video, the cyclist claims officers told him to move farther away from the demonstration, and later to put away his flag or face a charge of inciting a riot. Meanwhile, various other videos show Al-Quds demonstrators waving Palestinian flags.
In a separate incident, businessman Allan Einstoss -- also Jewish -- was handcuffed following a scuffle with Muslim demonstrators who were upset he had brought his large English mastiff to the rally.
While police insist he was arrested strictly for the dust-up, Einstoss claims an officer called him insensitive for bringing a dog to such a rally, considering some devout Muslims consider dogs to be unclean. Einstoss claims he was threatened with a charge of incite to riot, as well as assault. He was released after agreeing to leave Queen's Park.
"Any police officer who thinks these (incidents) are incitement to riot is loony," said lawyer Clayton Ruby.
Const. Victor Kwong insisted officers had a "very pleasant exchange" with the flag-waving cyclist.
He added police advised him to not ride his bike on the sidewalk, and recommended he not try to "lead the Al-Quds march on his bike with the flag."