Avenue Road bridge

Toronto Police declare Avenue Road highway overpass off limits to protestors

In response to a series of high-profile incidents, Toronto police have implemented a ban on protests, rallies, and demonstrations on the Avenue Road highway 401 overpass, according to Police Chief Myron Demkiw. The decision is part of Project Resolute, a large-scale operation aimed at restoring a sense of safety and security for Torontonians while upholding constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Moving forward protest demonstrations or congregation on the up individuals on the Avenue Road overpass will not be permitted,” said Demkiw. “People can expect to be arrested if necessary. Furthermore, activities that take place on the Avenue Road overpass and the surrounding areas will be investigated with a criminal lens.”

In a statement made during a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board, Demkiw emphasized the delicate balance required in navigating situations where various factors and interests need careful management. He stated that while freedom of expression is protected, it ends when it becomes criminal, manifesting in threats, assaults, mischief, or acts of hate such as the recent arson at a Jewish-owned business in North York.

Addressing concerns within the Jewish community, Demkiw highlighted ongoing efforts by the Hate Crime Unit and continuous engagement with Jewish and Muslim community leaders. The commitment to ensuring the safety of the city’s Jewish community remains unwavering, with daily deployments to Jewish neighbourhoods and institutions.

“Beyond the criminal charge of mischief, we know that this behaviour around the bridge has led to feelings of insecurity and intimidation for the Jewish community,” he continued. “For very good reason, community members in this area of the city are feeling intimidated by the actions of the demonstrators who have targeted this bridge that is in fact in the heart of a large Jewish community.”

The Major Incident Command Centre oversees citywide operations, managing the challenges posed by the unprecedented number of demonstrations — 308 since Oct. 7. Responding to the evolving nature of these events, the Public Safety Response Team will be redeployed to enhance the ability to manage the fluidity and unpredictability of demonstrations.

Since last October, Toronto Police has arrested 54 people and laid 117 alleged hate-motivated charges.

The decision to ban protests on the Avenue Road overpass comes after recurring demonstrations that have faced criticism from city councillors and Jewish groups due to the location’s proximity to a large Jewish population. The Avenue Road bridge has been shut down at least three times previously to ensure the safety of participants and passing traffic.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO