'Long live the Intifada!' Roads blocked, flags stomped by ‘cancel Christmas’ protests

Aside from some noise citations in Ottawa, the actions did not result in consequences for demonstrators

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In the final hours before Dec. 25, Canadian roads were blocked, overpasses were barricaded and malls were swarmed by screaming crowds as anti-Israel demonstrators attempted to make good on a promise to cancel Christmas.

On Saturday, a crowd of more than 100 moved through Downtown Toronto screaming for “intifada.” Demonstrators attempted to block entrances at Toronto’s Eaton Centre. And on Christmas Eve, an overpass and two approaches to Toronto’s Highway 401 were blockaded for several hours by a group waving Palestinian flags.

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“People come here to escape hate and violence from world conflict zones. The vast majority of residetns of Toronto do not want them recreated here,” Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak said in a statement urging police to rein in the Highway 401 blockade. He noted that plans for the illegal road closure had been issued hours in advance.

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The anti-Christmas demonstrations were largely organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, a group that openly seeks the destruction of Israel and was a vocal supporter of the Hamas-orchestrated civilian massacres on Oct. 7 that triggered the current Israel-Hamas conflict. “May the memory of our martyrs continue to guide us on the steadfast path to liberation,” reads a celebratory statement issued by the group on Oct. 9.

For Dec. 23 — the last Saturday before Christmas — the group pushed a “no Xmas as usual” campaign designed to obstruct Christmas travel and shopping throughout Canada and the United States. “Shut it down for Palestine” reads Palestinian Youth Movement materials circulated on social media.

In the United States, PYM demonstrators yelling “Christmas is cancelled!” blocked sidewalks and roads in the heart of New York City’s shopping district. In Chicago, they were briefly able to blockade traffic heading to O’Hare International Airport.

On Saturday, former federal Conservative leadership candidate Roman Baber posted a video of a crowd of more than 100 in Toronto chanting “Long live the Intifada!”

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The word loosely means uprising and has been used to refer to outbreaks of sustained Palestinian violence against Israel — most notably the Second Intifada, a five-year period characterized by suicide bombings of Israeli civilians.

Baber, a prominent supporter of the 2022 Freedom Convoy protests, inferred in a comment that the slogan veered into criminalized hate speech. “For three years, I fought like hell for freedom of speech in Canada. This is not protected speech,” he said.

Ontario MPP Goldie Ghamari, a vocal opponent of Canadian pro-Palestine groups, posted a video on Saturday showing demonstrators in Toronto wrenching a Canadian flag from counter-protester Salman Sima. “They’re not just attacking other countries. They’re attacking the Canadian flag,” wrote Ghamari.

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Sima — who, like Ghamari, is Iranian-Canadian — also strode into the crowd holding Israeli flags, Iranian flags that predate the country’s 1979 takeover by Islamic fundamentalists and a sign reading “Merry Christmas.”

In the case of the Iranian flag, Sima said he suffered minor injuries after being surrounded and pushed. “Today we stood against the radical jihadist antisemite mob in Toronto. They tried to intimidate us, they grabbed our sign, they attack us, they assaulted us,” he wrote on social media.

Although Toronto police worked to escort demonstrators from both Eaton Centre and the Highway 401 overpass, the incidents did not result in charges or other consequences. This despite the fact that, in the case of Eaton Centre, Toronto police had issued warnings that it was illegal to stage demonstrations on private property.

Sima, in fact, has alleged that police actively shielded pro-Palestinian demonstrations from opposition.

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Sima posted a Dec. 24 video of a line of Toronto police seeming to stop him from carrying a sign reading “ho ho ho Merry Christmas” into a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. “Toronto police provides a safe space for you if you block the main intersections while chanting against Jews, but if you say ‘MerryChristmas’ while waving a Canadian flag, they push your chest,” he wrote.

The only apparent exception was in Ottawa, where Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services handed out three noise violations to a Palestinian Youth Movement march that used megaphones in defiance of local bylaws.

The PYM called the fines “undemocratic, racist, and politically motivated.”

A video posted by Caryma Sa’d — an observer of Toronto-area protests  — captured the moment that demonstrator Deana Sherif was issued a noise citation. Within seconds, she can be seen continuing to use her megaphone to lead the crowd in a chant of “Shame, Shame Bylaw.”

Wrote Sa’d, “there is a pattern of protest circuit personalities acting belligerent towards police without immediate consequence.”

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