Police investigating exchange at pro-Palestinian protest against Zara in Eaton Centre

By Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

An investigation has been launched into an exchange between a demonstrator and another person during a pro-Palestinian protest in front of fashion retailer Zara at a busy Toronto mall, city police said Monday. 

The protest took place at the bustling Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto on Sunday evening, police said. About 150 demonstrators entered the mall around 5 p.m., the force said, noting that officers and mall security guards were on scene.

“A demonstrator and another citizen who was at the mall exchanged words, which you see in a video that’s circulating, and officers were keeping them apart,” Const. Victor Kwong wrote in a statement. 

“We are investigating this incident.”

A video shared online appears to show a heated exchange between a protester and someone else while the demonstration takes place at the mall. Several Toronto police officers can be seen on the video, standing nearby. 

Kwong noted that the mall was very busy with holiday shoppers at the time. 

“During a situation like this, when tensions are high and there are large crowds of people, including the general public, officers must use their best judgment at the time, taking everyone’s safety into consideration,” he said. 

“Officers used their training to de-escalate the situation and disperse the crowd.”

Kwong added that shoppers could expect to see officers at large gatherings “to keep the peace and for public safety.”

Last week, Zara, a Spanish fashion brand, pulled advertising images that, to some, appeared to reference Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The images for a line of jackets included what the company called “unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio.” However, some online critics said one image of a model holding a wrapped-up mannequin resembled someone holding a corpse. 

Other photos included a mannequin with missing limbs and a figure wrapped in fabric or plastic on the floor, according to news reports.

The company apologized in a statement posted on Instagram and said the campaign was conceived in July and photographed in September. Hamas’s attack on Israel took place on Oct. 7 and prompted Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Zara said the campaign was created “with the sole purpose of showcasing craftmade garments in an artistic context.” 

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