Thousands March Through Toronto for a Real Arms Embargo on Israel

Photo by Joshua Best.

By World BEYOND War, March 28, 2024

Thousands marched through Toronto on Sunday March 24, 2024, in a protest led by Toronto World BEYOND War, Jews Say No to Genocide, the Palestinian Youth Movement Toronto, and Showing Up for Racial Justice Toronto, to demand an arms embargo on Israel.

Photo by Joshua Best.

Through the leadership of the Jews Say no to Genocide Coalition, the protest and march was held on the Jewish holiday of Purim as a way of marking that holiday, which centers on making noise against violence and for liberation.

“Today is Purim, a story in the book of Esther of survival, of liberation, and of courage as the Jewish people escaped the fate of death and foiled Haman’s plan to exterminate them” explained Joey, a member of Jews Say No to Genocide. “We are reclaiming Purim as a story of transformation, as a condemnation of genocide and ethnic cleansing, Whether it be at the hands of Haman’s army or the IDF, genocide is not our legacy. That is why we are here—to stand in solidarity with Palestinians and fight alongside them for liberation. Much like Mordechai and Esther collaborated to save the fate of Jews in 5 BCE, we too can be courageous like Queen Esther and turn oppression into liberation.”

Hundreds of heavily armed police officers attempted to corral the march and at one point blocked a street that the thousands of marchers had begun walking down. They began to escalate, shoving at the people at the front of the march who were now trapped with nowhere to go. They grabbed one member of the march, seemingly at random, and arrested him. March organizers arranged for immediate support from a lawyer, and organized jail support at the police division he was taken to a couple of hours later, to ensure his release.

“We are done with Canadian complicity in the genocide of our families and loved ones in Gaza” said Dalia Awwad, organizer with Palestinian Youth Movement Toronto. “We came out here today to say we want a two way arms embargo on the ground right now. We demand no weapons to and from Israel. This is the bare minimum Canada should do right now.”

“Enough is enough,” she continued. “It’s been more than 32000 Palestinians dead and the Toronto police’s response has been consistent. They have been criminalizing us. They have been desperately trying to make it seem like we are somehow on the wrong side of this. You explain to me how saying we want an end to a genocide is a problem. While the police are trying to scare us off the streets we refuse to be intimidated. The Toronto police will not dictate what we do in our neighborhoods or anywhere in this city. We will continue to march.”

“Today we’re getting an example in real time of the connection between policing and our struggles to speak, to advocate, to be free,” said Desmond Cole, an author and journalist who has chronicled Toronto policing for more than a decade. “We cannot do that when we live in a police state. They are threatened by our very words, by our arguments, by the relentlessness that months after this horrific siege began we have not quit and we have not gone away. We can’t and we are not going to be silenced by their attempts to push us down.”

Organizers acknowledged how terrifying escalating police intimidation and violence was for many people in attendance – especially those from marginalized communities, those without secure immigration status, parents with small children, the elderly and disabled folks. What should have been a low risk rally became a dangerous experience because of the police escalation. Our movement resolves to never to stop organizing for Palestine, and to build up our ability to keep each other safe in the face of state violence through ongoing safety training for our members, centering marginalized community safety measures and infrastructure, distributing safety resources, and ongoing connection with movement elders and Black organizers with a wealth of experience in Toronto about negating violent police tactics.

Another arrest was made an hour later of a white supremacist who approached the march and shouted “white power” before assaulting a pro-Palestinian demonstrator.

The police later put out a statement that said “Man arrested at demonstration in hate-motivated assault.” “They are being intentionally ambiguous to encourage people to infer that it was someone who was part of the Palestinian solidarity march being violent, when it was of course actually referring to a white supremacist attacking the Palestinian solidarity march,” explained Rachel Small, an organizer with World BEYOND War.

The march was able to successfully move away from the police line and proceed down one of Toronto’s primary streets, Yonge, before ending strong and united outside the Israeli Consulate.

Independent Toronto newspaper The Grind reported:

“Recently, the federal government announced they would not issue any new arms permits to Israel. But as The Maple reported, this would not cancel current military permits, which includes $28.5 million in export goods permits approved in the first two months after Oct. 7.

“People will not be dissuaded and are not succumbing to either deliberate misinformation or exaggerations of what the government is actually doing,” says World Beyond War organizer Rachel Small.

She says the numbers that showed up for the rally show an uncomfortable truth to Canadian politicians.

“It’s really clear that what many people in power thought would be happening at this point is not,” she says. “Toronto solidarity organizing and protests are not stopping or not shrinking.”

The protest was covered by local media including CTV, CP24, and The Grind:

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for your fine witness for Truth and Peace on earth.
    We must defeat the fascist zionist colonialist propaganda in North America/Turtle Island.
    Shocking that Biden’s regime so actively supports the genocide of our beloved family, the Palestinians. Please keep me posted on the dates of demonstrations. God bless us all.
    Bruce Robertson

  2. It is time that planet earth become a peaceful planet.
    As it stands we are the polluters of the created universe.
    Where does all this violence come from?
    Glory to God and peace on earth, Thy Kingdom come!!

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