The following is an edited report from the Toronto Star online service. See photos below of the Socialist Action contingent in the All Out for Gaza demonstration in Toronto on November 18.
Thousands of protesters from across Toronto gathered outside the U.S. Consulate General on Saturday for a pro-Palestinian march, the city’s latest mass demonstration as the Israel war against the residents of Gaza and the West Bank enters its seventh week.
A spokesperson for Independent Jewish Voices, one of the groups behind the event, said the demonstration will include a march through the downtown core, but did not disclose the route. It is expected to last until at least 6 p.m.
It is one of several events scheduled for this weekend. A separate rally is planned at Nathan Phillips Square for Sunday afternoon, ahead of World Children’s Day on Monday, to raise awareness about the Gazan children impacted by the war.
Live updates (from later to earlier)
6:15 p.m.: A speaker at the protest says the crowd will soon disperse, but “this is not the end,” and that demonstrations will continue “until Palestine is free.” He invites everyone present to go to Ottawa next weekend to make the message known at Parliament Hill.
A truck pulling a trailer with a massive, bright screen rotating through the faces and names of children killed by Israeli airstrikes has parked in the middle of the intersection at Queen Street West and University Avenue.
5:35 p.m.: “We’re shutting down the streets now — are you ready?” asks organizer with megaphone to the crowd stopped at Queen Street West and University Avenue, near where the rally started at the U.S. Consulate General over four hours ago.
5:30 p.m.: The crowd of protesters is now passing Scotiabank at Queen and Duncan streets. Scotiabank was yesterday the target of a sit-in occupation by pro-Palestinian protestors that ended in a violent attack by police.
The sit-in targeted Scotiabank for its investments in Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems Ltd., which is accused of making cluster bombs — a deadly weapon banned in Canada and other countries.
Protesters have put up stickers saying, “We pay to bomb children” on it and other businesses along the way that are targeted by the Palestinian movement Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).
5:05 p.m.: Protesters are heading south on Spadina Avenue, nearing Queen Street West. Multiple bursts of loud fireworks can be heard, which organizers have cautioned against repeatedly throughout the march as it could be triggering for Palestinians in the crowd.
Streetcars on both Spadina and Queen are stalled by the protest, and sit lined up on the streets.
One protester at Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street climbed a dragon statue and released a red smoke bomb while waving a Palestinian flag. Protest leaders had earlier asked protesters to also refrain from using smoke bombs.
Protest leaders are continuing to lead chants. “From Turtle Island to Palestine, ethnic cleansing is a crime,” they shout.
The crowd, meanwhile, is waving a sea of flags, mostly Palestinian but also from other countries like Turkey and The Philippines.
3:47 p.m.: The rally, initially expected to march on Queen’s Park, instead roved west where it has shut down the intersection at College Street and Spadina Avenue.
3:15 p.m.: Sid Ryan, former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, spoke to the crowd from the back of a pickup truck.
“I’m here to talk about what’s happening to Palestinians, what’s happening in the Gaza Strip every single week,” he said. “The story gets worse and worse.”
The former labour leader called out Canadian politicians who’ve failed to support a ceasefire. He also condemned business leaders who’ve reprimanded employees for pro-Palestinian statements.
3:09 p.m.: The demonstration is now at the intersection of College Street and University Avenue. Police have blocked off College Street both ways.
The march will continue north to Queen’s Park.
1:37 p.m.: University Avenue is closed in both directions outside the consulate..
1:20 p.m.: Organizers say they are demanding an immediate ceasefire in the conflict and an end to the violence against civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.
“We will not stand idly by and allow for business as usual while the Israeli military continues to mercilessly bomb refugee camps, hospitals, schools, churches and apartment buildings in Gaza, killing thousands, and while millions of Palestinians have no access to water, food, medicine, electricity, and fuel,” organizers said in a press release issued Saturday morning.
The march Saturday is organized by a coalition of groups, including the Palestinian Youth Movement, which has staged some of the largest pro-Palestinian rallies in the city.