Police price tag for protests surpasses $12M, deny accusations of aggressive force

Toronto Police are reminding the public that everyone must operate within the law ahead of multiple demonstrations expected to take place across the city this weekend.

Deputy Police Chief Lauren Pogue says since October 7 police have attended more than 500 demonstrations and despite accusations last weekend that police are becoming more aggressive towards protesters, she says the deployment of officers and mounted units has remained consistent with recent protests.

“Toronto Police attend these gatherings to maintain public order, facilitate crowd control and above all ensure the safety of everyone present, be they demonstrators, officers or the general public,” said Pogue. “We respect the right to assembly and to expression but it’s crucial to understand that these rights are not limitless.”

Last weekend, demonstrators accused police of using excessive force after several individuals were arrested as a protest made its way through the downtown core. Pogue acknowledged that while the vast majority of those gathering are engaging in peaceful protest, there are individuals who are consistently attending these events as agitators and are becoming increasingly confrontational and violent towards police.

“We recognize that the vast majority of people showing up are there for a cause and to speak out and be heard but we have agitators in the crowd and we have seen an escalation,” said Pogue.

“These actions are anything but peaceful. They jeopardize the safety of everyone involved including those who get caught in the fray and had no intentions in engaging in altercations with police.”

Dalia Awwad with the Palestinian Youth Movement says these demonstrations have been over-policed from the start.

“The agitation is the Toronto police showing up with 300, 400 officers, with mounted officers, with riot gear, with rubber bullet guns to a community protest with families, elderly children coming out to say we do not want our families to be killed in Gaza,” she tells CityNews.

Pogue also noted that since October 7 the cost to police these demonstrations has surpassed $12 million with almost $5 million of that total in overtime costs alone.

TPA responds to councillor’s letter

Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Association has called on the mayor to denounce a joint statement released by six city councillors regarding the events of last weekend’s pro-Palestinian march and rally.

The statement titled ‘Protecting the Right to Protest in Our City’ was signed by Councillors Amber Morley, Gord Perks, Alejandra Bravo, Ausma Malik, Paula Fletcher, and Lily Cheng. In it, they say they are deeply concerned about “residents voicing fears about their freedom to engage in protests, demonstrations and large gatherings” while reiterating their commitment to upholding the rights and freedoms of all Torontonians.

Morley goes on to say in a post on X that she appreciates the “complex situations” police officers navigate in order to ensure saftey at protests. She goes on to say that she intends to bring forward an item at the next Toronto Police Services Board meeting to address the concerns raised by residents.

The police association statement says officers strive to maintain public safety while respecting and upholding the rights of those who have gathered to demonstrate.

“When those in attendance have broken the law, our members have been patient and professional, always opting to deescalate and provide warnings at every opportunity, often to the point of criticism and ridicule from others,” read the statement posted on X on Friday.

“In return, officers have been threatened with injury or death.”

The association calls on Mayor Olivia Chow and councillors Morley and Cheng – both of whom sit on the Toronto Police Services Board – to come out in support of police officers and condemn the attacks against them.

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