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Toronto police defends delivering coffee to anti-Israel activists

"Police bringing food and coffee to demonstrators in the current context of the protests in Toronto was a very poor decision," said Anthony Housefather, a Jewish member of the Canadian Parliament.

Toronto Police Service officers deliver coffee and food to anti-Israel protesters blocking a bridge in the city's most heavily-Jewish area on Jan. 6, 2023. Source: X/CarymaRules.
Toronto Police Service officers deliver coffee and food to anti-Israel protesters blocking a bridge in the city's most heavily-Jewish area on Jan. 6, 2023. Source: X/CarymaRules.

The Toronto Police Service is evidently taking a page from the motto of the Los Angeles Police Department: “To protect and to serve.”

Canadian lawyer Caryma Sa’d posted a video on Saturday of Toronto police officers delivering coffee and food to anti-Israel protesters blocking a bridge in the most heavily Jewish part of the city.

“How did you get coffee from the police?” a protester is asked in the video. The keffiyeh-clad protester responds: “Somebody bought it for us, but the police won’t let them in. So the police is now becoming our little messengers.”

Laurie McCann, a spokeswoman for the police, told the National Post that officers were “managing a dynamic situation” and had not intended to endorse the protest.

“Their top priority is maintaining order in a tense environment on the Avenue Road bridge,” she said. “In performing a helpful act today, our officer’s motivation was to help keep tensions low and should not be interpreted as showing support for any cause or group.”

Others were unconvinced.

“Police bringing food and coffee to demonstrators in the current context of the protests in Toronto was a very poor decision by Toronto Police Service,” wrote Anthony Housefather, a Jewish member of the Canadian Parliament. “Unless the goal is to further undermine confidence in the way the force is handling the demonstrations.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs wrote that it spoke with Toronto police Saturday night “about the impact of the continued rallies” on the Avenue Road bridge over Highway 401 “and how our community feels about images of officers handing coffee to ‘anti-Israel protestors.'”

“Our message was clear: The constant disruption of this major route must end now,” CIJA said. “This isn’t a typical protest site. It’s an overpass in the heart of a residential neighborhood, one that’s home to many Jewish families. Toronto cannot become a city where a few dozen ‘activists’ can harm an entire neighborhood on a near-daily basis.”

“Protesters illegally blocking a road and being gifted coffee. This is Canada in 2024. Embarrassing,” wrote HonestReportingCanada.

Earlier in the day, the Toronto police posted that the overpass was closed “due to public safety concerns” and that “police are on scene to enforce this in order to keep demonstrators, and passing traffic, safe.”

“I see we’re are back to intimidating Jewish neighborhoods and closing down overpasses in the middle of Toronto,” wrote Melissa Lantsman, a Jewish member of the Canadian Parliament.

“How many more weekends like this until there is equal enforcement of the law in this country?” she wrote. “How many more weekends like this until the prime minister acknowledges the problem?”

Last week, a Jewish-owned store in Toronto was firebombed. The Toronto Police Service announced on Dec. 19 that hate crimes were up 41% from Jan. 1 to Dec. 17, compared to the same period last year. In that span, there were 147 antisemitic hate crimes in 2023, compared to 81 in 2022. (In that period in 2023, there were 37 hate crimes against Muslims, compared to 14 in 2022.)

From Oct. 7—when Hamas terrorists attacked Israel—until Dec. 17, there were 98 hate crimes, including 56 antisemitic acts, compared to 48 hate crimes, 18 of them targeting Jews, in 2022. More than half (53%) of all hate crimes from Oct. 7 to Dec. 17 have been antisemitic, the Toronto police said.

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