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Is City Hall the appropriate venue for 'free-speech' rallies?

Last Updated Oct 24, 2017 at 12:15 am EST

A tense stand-off among police, a group of anti-Trudeau protesters and anti-racism counter-demonstrators in Nathan Philips Square on Saturday is the latest in anti-white supremacy demonstrations in Ontario.

Protesters displayed signs expressing both anti-Islam and pro-free speech views while many counter-demonstrators held signs urging tolerance and love. And though City Hall may be the centre of democracy in Toronto, some question whether it is the right place for these demonstrations to occur.

On Monday morning, Mayor John Tory said that while legitimate protesters opposing government policy should have the right to demonstrate at City Hall, he warned about the agendas of far-right groups.

“There is no place for hate. There is no place for homophobic or racist commentary and we have to be very careful that people don’t adopt a Trojan horse strategy of saying we’re going to show up at Nathan Philips Square under the guise of protesting our government policy – which is fair enough – but then when you see what the signs say and you see what the people are saying, this represents the kind of dialogue that we do not find to be acceptable in our city where we’re trying to bring people together and not have acts of hatred and acts of discrimination and racism.”

Four people were arrested at the rally as some protesters accused the police of impeding their right to freedom of speech.

“As far as demonstrations are concerned, our approach is to balance competing interests, facilitate peaceful protest and protect public safety,” Toronto Police Service spokesman Mark Pugash told CityNews.

Tonight on CityNews, Adrian Ghobrial looks at whether City Hall is the spot to hold these kinds of protests and speaks to a free speech expert to see whether the far right have the right to have their message heard.