Dozens of anti-racist activists demonstrated in front of a Zionist community center in Toronto, Canada on Tuesday to protest a public event organized by Jewish and British anti-Muslims. Four protestors were arrested in the fracas, and at least one police officer suffered a broken rib, according to The Globe and Mail.
The local chapter of the Jewish Defense League, an extreme-right organization founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, broadcasted a live speech by English Defense League founder Stephen Lennon, otherwise known as Tommy Robinson, drawing the ire of demonstrators.
The two groups on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean have found common cause in nationalist pride and Islamophobic rhetoric. Both groups claim that they do not promote prejudice against others, only pride in their own respective ethnicities, but critics accuse them of spreading hate against Arabs and other Muslims.
One group of demonstrators maintained a vigil across the intersection from the Zionist building, while a separate group of demonstrators marched towards the community center to confront the JDL. Police on foot and on horseback intervened and corralled the protestors, The Globe and Mail reported.
Toronto police said that one of their officers was had been taken to hospital with a broken rib after he was hit with a flagpole. At the end of the demonstration, police noticed that one of their squad cars had been vandalized, its windows smashed.
Anti-Racist Action, which organized the second group of protestors, claim that police responded violently, kicking one demonstrator in the face. Officers confiscated the cameras of activists videotaping the arrests and wiped their memory cards clean, say the ARA.
The EDL website says that the group's aims are to oppose what it calls the application of Sharia law in the U.K. “The root cause of the problem is the Koran, it’s Islam,” Lennon told the BBC in November. “And no one has got the balls to admit it and say it and talk about it. We will."
“The EDL has organized violent street marches that target Arab and Muslim people,” read an open letter signed by the organizers of Tuesday's protest. “They are part of an alarming rise in fascist, racist and neo-Nazi organizing in Europe over the last few years, including attacks on Muslims, immigrants and Roma people.”
“JDL supports the EDL,” says an announcement on the JDL Canadian website. “Now is the time to step forward and stop Political Islam. The British Establishment is following the appeasement policies of Neville Chamberlain," it reads, a reference to the British prime minister who tried to placate Adolf Hitler, implying that Muslims represent a threat of Nazi proportions.
In Israel, the Kach political party established by JDL founder Rabbi Meir Kahane was banned from running for the Knesset in 1992, due to its racist platform, but in recent years Kahane's followers have entered the Knesset under different names, and some of Kahane's proposed policies are now unabashedly espoused by ministers in the current government.
Bernie Farber of the establishment Jewish organization Canadian Jewish Congress, said of the JDL on the CJN website, "As long as they maintain the peace, as long as they do not engage in racist language or hate or violate Canadian law, they have the right to exist."
Farber said he was disappointed that the JDL would support the EDL because of its record of violence. But, he told the National Post, "Islamic fundamentalism is a real threat."
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