Pro-Palestinian protesters drove Prime Minister Justin Trudeau out of a popular Vancouver restaurant Tuesday evening and then followed him to a cocktail bar across town, where 250 demonstrators surrounded a city block and were eventually dispersed by 100 local police officers.
Dozens of demonstrators chanting “ceasefire now!” filed into celebrity restaurateur Vikram Vij’s eponymous restaurant. As the commotion unfolded, Mr. Trudeau left the establishment shortly after 9 p.m. His security detail ushered him out the door, as the owner embraced him, down the street and into a waiting motorcade, according to video posted online by a group called Palestinian Solidarity Canada.
Sergeant Steve Addison, a Vancouver police spokesperson, said at a Wednesday press conference that his department had no reports of the incident at the Michelin-recognized restaurant.
However, the VPD scrambled 100 officers less than an hour later to a protest outside the Bagheera cocktail bar in Chinatown demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Once there, officers grew concerned about the “specific actions’' of some of the 250 protesters, Sgt. Addison said, including the moving of protective barricades.
Police tasered a 27-year-old man and later recommended Crown lay a charge of assaulting a police officer against the individual for allegedly punching a constable in the face and gouging her eyes, Sgt. Addison said. Officers controlled the crowd so Mr. Trudeau could leave the bar.
Videos showed protesters waving Palestinian flags, shouting slogans and jeering Mr. Trudeau outside the Chinatown bar.
Charlotte Kates, an organizer with the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, said she attended both protests. Ms. Kates said she was one of many who could not sit by and let political leaders “go about ordinary business.”
“We want Canada to take a real position on this issue and not simply say that, you know, the Israeli occupation should be restrained,” she said.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau had urged Israel’s government to “exercise maximum restraint” in its war against Hamas, which has included regular air strikes in Gaza.
Sgt. Addison said Vancouver had seen a “significant increase” in the number of people gathering to protest since the Israel-Hamas war began last month. He added that the department expects the total protests this year to eclipse 1,000 demonstrations, which is well above the typical average of 800 or so in recent years.
“We have a long history of protests in the city of Vancouver,” Sgt. Addison said. “We support people’s right to peacefully assemble to express themselves, but we also have responsibility to balance that right with maintaining order and upholding the rule of law.”
He would not comment on whether the VPD considers “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” – a common refrain at most pro-Palestinian rallies over the past month – as antisemitic speech. Last week, Calgary police charged a pro-Palestinian protest organizer with allegedly causing a hate-motivated disturbance after he led the crowd in a call-and-response shouting of the controversial phrase.
Also on Wednesday, the B.C. government announced it is offering groups from communities targeted by hate crimes up to $10,000 each and will launch a racist incident hotline next spring to combat hate-motivated violence in the province.
The funding will be provided to places of worship, cultural community centres and other organizations working with at-risk groups to help pay for security equipment, graffiti removal and repairs to damage done by hate-motivated crimes.
The government says it will use anonymized data from the helpline to inform it of where and how to deploy additional resources to fight racism.
With a report from The Canadian Press