Three people were charged at the Avenue Road bridge after Toronto’s police chief warned of arresting protesters

Protesters leaving the Avenue Road bridge, Jan. 13, 2024 (Credit: Lila Sarick)

Toronto police arrested and charged three people on the Avenue Road bridge, on Saturday, days after the city’s police chief warned that demonstrators on the highway overpass could “expect to be arrested.”

A man from Newmarket, Ont., was charged with mischief. A Toronto man and a man from Mississauga were each charged with obstructing a peace officer, according to a police news release. The bridge stayed open for traffic, despite the protest.

The bridge, which leads to the heart of Toronto’s Jewish community, has been the site of pro-Palestinian demonstrations and counter-demonstrations for several weeks. Police have closed the bridge on occasion, as protesters waved flags over the Highway 401 overpass and set off smoke bombs.

At the Jan. 11 Toronto Police Services Board meeting, police chief Myron Demkiw announced the bridge would be off-limits to protesters.

“Moving forward, demonstrations or the congregation of individuals on the Avenue Road overpass will not be permitted. People can expect to be arrested if necessary,” Demkiw said.

“Considering all the factors that have transpired over the recent weeks, it is quite clear that our communities feel unsafe… particularly our Jewish communities in the immediate vicinity of the Avenue Road bridge,” Demkiw told reporters following the board meeting.

Police cars and ambulances lined both sides of the bridge and the residential side streets on Jan. 13 when a group of 20 to 30 protesters congregated on the overpass. They were not visibly carrying signs or flags.

Police moved the group off the bridge about an hour after they arrived.

Toronto Police have been called to an unprecedented 308 protests since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists killed 1,200 Israelis, triggering a war in Gaza.

Between Oct. 7, 2023 and Jan. 10, 2024, police have made 54 arrests and laid 117 charges related to hate crime occurrences. Antisemitic incidents are up 168 percent since Oct. 7 when compared with the same period in 2022.