Over a thousand Montrealers gathered at Dorchester Square on Sunday in a grassroots Israel Solidarity Rally to demonstrate support for the Middle East’s only democracy now being pummelled over the past week by the some 3,200 Hamas rockets fired from Gaza. Those in attendance represented many communities in addition to the Jewish community. Representatives of the Greek, Italian and Afro-Canadian communities were prominent. The ninety minute gathering started out as a joyous affair with much dancing and songs of peace. The Rally had been sanctioned by the City with full police cooperation and protection. That protection turned out to be very much needed.

On the south side of Dorchester Square at Place du Canada several hundred pro-Palestinian protestors had gathered. They immediately commenced shouting anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and Islamist slogans. The Israel Rally participants moved further north in Dorchester Square and continued with speeches and more celebration in song and dance.

The police called in more riot squad officers to hold the pro-Palestinian group in check in Place du Canada as several times dozens of them tried to cross René-Levesque Blvd, pull down police tape and break through police lines that were keeping the two groups apart. Despite the effective and heavy police presence, several attacks succeeded.

The first was a small band of pro-Palestinians who moved up Peel St. and pepper sprayed some of the Rally participants. Police officers on foot and on bicycles subdued them. A half hour later another band came from the east crossing Mansfield and beating up several Rally participants — one of whom lay unconscious for a few minutes on the ground — and they too were subdued by police who arrived quickly.

The worst attack came as the Israel Rally ended and participants were leaving Dorchester Square. A gang of some twenty men arrived from the east along René-Levesque and mounted the steps of Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. The riot police quickly moved in front of them just as they started to hurl large objects, rocks, smoke bombs and at least one green-smoke astringent projectile at several hundred Israel supporters who were milling about on the south end of Dorchester Square some thirty feet away. These reporters were in the midst of it and as our our eyes teared and our lungs seared we were told it was tear gas.

After that attack the remainder of the Israel Rally participants dispersed quickly. The pro-Palestinian group did not. Their taunts and projection of items were now turned onto the police. Police loudspeakers blared a warning that if they did not disperse they would be detained for participating in a now “illegal” gathering.

Minutes after that warning, police officers and riot squad members rushed north along Peel. Hundreds of pro-Palestinians had come out of four subway stops near de Maisonneuve and along St. Catherine and were attempting to make their way to Dorchester Square apparently to confront the Israel supporters who remained. Police presence increased and they were able to hold back what was now a mob by using tear gas and rushed them pushing them east along St.Catherine. But not before cars bearing Israeli flags were attacked by the protestors and in one case an Israeli flag was pulled off a car with the female driver still inside. The Suburban has a video of that incident as well as another showing two pro-Palestinians banging in the door of another car that had an Israeli flag on it.

{div}Aaron Simon, who was at Sunday’s pro-Israel rally and was hit in the back of the head with a rock while holding an Israel flag, causing swelling and a painful cut, was appalled by the violence from the pro-Palestinian side and disappointed in much of the media’s coverage, except that of The Suburban, which was on the scene at all times. “This was an Intifada in Montreal,” he said. “It was rage, and to me it was an act of terrorism. If it wasn’t for the police, it would have been a bloody mess. Clearly, the city is not taking this seriously enough. The Jewish community is very scared. This is out of control, we shouldn’t be this scared. This was a peaceful rally, and there was a mob scene, with people trying to get to us. They were out for blood. All we wanted to do was go back home. {/div}

{div}”Unbelievable — in Montreal!”{/div}

At around three pm police received information that pro-Palestinians on social media were sending out messages for supporters to make their way to St. Catherine and Peel. It took well into Sunday night for police and riot squad officers to get control of the west central downtown core as de Maisonneuve, St. Catherine and René-Levesque were closed due to the havoc created by what some observers have put at some one thousand pro-Palestinians holding downtown hostage. The siege by the pro-Palestinian rioters was finally brought under control at around 9.30pm. Three officers and multiple Israel Rally attendees were injured. Police arrested 15 protestors and rioters on charges ranging from armed assault, obstruction of justice to criminal mischief.

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