Five weeks after a December protest inside the Toronto Eaton Centre, two men were charged with mischief and assaulting a police officer

Protest outside Zara at the Eaton Centre in Toronto, Dec. 17, 2023.

TORONTO POLICE UPDATE 2/9/24: Ahmed Saeed Abufarick, 31, was arrested and charged on three counts—while similar charges were dropped against Malek Said Ahma Abufarick, 34.

Two Toronto men have been arrested and charged with mischief and assaulting a police officer following a Dec. 17 pro-Palestinian protest in the Eaton Centre that included an alleged threat captured in a widely circulated video.

In that chaotic moment from the protest inside the busy mall, a masked protester says “I’ll put you six feet deep” to someone police were keeping physically separate from the man. Several officers can be seen during the exchange, and Toronto Police Services (TPS) confirmed at the time it was investigating, later confirming the Hate Crimes Unit was leading the investigation.

In a media release issued Jan. 21, TPS made public the arrests and charges, one day after officers conducted a search that “recovered items of evidentiary value related to the investigation.”

TPS alleges the two men who were arrested and charged were “blocking the entrance to a store and preventing employees from closing” the Zara clothing store during the demonstration inside the Eaton Centre.

Both men pushed security, trying to get into the store, the TPS release says, when one of the men pushed an officer and the other man struck an officer with an umbrella.

The “demonstrators banged on the store shutters and yelled at store employees and officers,” police allege. One of the men then made a verbal threat toward an individual in the mall.

“Police later identified the two men involved in this incident,” the release said. As TPS has mentioned and repeated in the release, charges can be laid at a later time.

Amro Saeed Ahmad Abufarick, 19, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly, member of an unlawful assembly while masked, mischief interfere with property, assault peace officer, and uttering threats.

Malek Said Ahma Abufarick, 34, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly, mischief interfere with property and assault peace officer.

They were scheduled to appear in court Sunday morning at the Toronto Regional Bail Centre in the Jane-Finch area, and The Ministry of the Attorney General’s office later confirmed in an email to The CJN that each of the two accused was released on a $1,000 no deposit surety bail. The matter returns to court with the first court appearance scheduled for February 13, 2024, at the downtown Ontario Court of Justice, the ministry said.

The CJN is working to confirm whether there is a family relationship between the two accused and cannot currently confirm if this is the case.

In December, during holiday shopping season, pro-Palestinian demonstrations occurred in malls in the Toronto and Ottawa area, with Zara as a particular target around the globe after the apparel company withdrew a controversial ad campaign. In another incident captured in a widely shared video, demonstrators disrupted a Santa lineup with snare drum rolls and call-and-response protest chants including “Jesus was Palestinian.”

In its media release announcing the arrests and charges, TPS reiterated its commitment to respect lawful protests, balanced with its obligation to enforce the law.

“As a reminder, [TPS] respects people’s right to demonstrate lawfully, but anyone whose behaviour crosses the line from lawful demonstration to criminality can be arrested,” the release said.

“Just because someone is not issued a charge at the time does not mean that they cannot be laid at a later date. Officers will continue to investigate, gather evidence, and determine whether charges are appropriate.”

The mall protests, a seemingly short-lived tactic targeting peak retail season, followed previous downtown Toronto protests that drew up to 20,000 or more demonstrators supporting Palestinians and the ceasefire in Gaza.

After a meeting on Dec. 19, TPS Chief Myron Demkiw told The CJN that police were working with mall ownership “to ensure our response is robust and proportionate… [and] supports the malls in the most appropriate way we can as things are changing and developing as it relates to public demonstrations.”

When asked why charges were not laid at the time of the incident, including officers bearing witness to threats, TPS spokesperson Stephanie Sayer said policing dynamic situations calls for officers to use their discretion.

“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. When this incident occurred, the mall was very busy with holiday shoppers, and officers used their training to de-escalate the situation and disperse the crowd,” she said in an email to The CJN.

While the hate crimes unit led the investigation, Sayer said, the offences are not deemed hate-motivated.

However, offences like assaulting an officer and uttering threats are serious charges, said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, vice-resident of the GTA for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

“[These charges] reflect the growing extremism, hate, and risks to public safety we’re seeing at anti-Israel protests,” said Kirzner-Roberts in a statement.

“This isn’t just about the clear threat to Toronto’s Jewish community. It’s about the kind of society we want to live in. People should be able to shop at a mall without being screamed at or witnessing assaults. We appreciate the diligent work of police to investigate this serious incident and hold those responsible accountable.”

With files from Ellin Bessner.