Saturday, January 16, 2010
This is the brief exchange I had with the approximately three women who carried the Code Pink banner in the Gaza Freedom March on December 27. Added bonus: you can see the guy with the Hezbollah flag at the end.
This is what you hear on the video:
Me: What does that say? Underneath?
Code Pink: The Arabic? I'm not sure.
Me: Oh, okay.
Code Pink: Probably a repeat.
(Can you tell from my voice that I was unconvinced? I'd want to know for certain before I marched with something in another language.)
There exist in Toronto today legally enforced no-go zones for Zionists.
The location and boundaries of these Zionist-free zones are defined at the whim of anti-Zionists and enforced by police.
As in the old days when whites could force blacks to leave the sidewalk, now Israel-haters can – with the assistance of police and under threat of arrest – force Zionists to move at least 30 metres away in every direction.
I had to be downtown last night, so I decided to check out a candlelight vigil that was being held by (at my count) 29 people in the anti-Israel movement. They carried signs with tiny writing that I think listed the names of 1,417 supposedly innocent Gazans whom they claim were killed during Operation Cast Lead (the numbers and characterization of the dead are disputed by the Israeli government).
It was dull. They stood around with mostly matching signs and didn't say anything.
One young man with a deceptively sweet face called me a racist and followed me around with his camera phone. (That was okay with the police.)
I took a few photos, hoping to capture the different signs and the candles. I chatted with a freelance reporter whom I've seen at other events.
Then a woman approached and stood uncomfortably close to me. I didn't record any of what happened next so the dialogue is reproduced to the best of my ability. At this time, I was standing several feet away from the protesters.
Woman: "Excuse me, there are a number of us who meet here every Friday and we have some rules. We want to know the names of the people who are photographing us and what you're going to use the photos for."
Me: "This is a public place. You are making a public display. I can take photos."
Woman: "No, you can't: you're JDL."
Me: "I am not in the JDL."
When I addressed her by her first name, she demanded to know my name.
Woman: "Where did you get my name? Am I on the shit list?"
Me: "The what list?"
Woman: "The JDL has a shit list with everyone's name on it. I'm probably on it."
Woman: "The JDL, the Zionists have a list with Richard Gere with a penis."
Me: "With a what?"
Woman: "A picture of Richard Gere with a penis beside him."
Me: "Where have you seen this list? I haven't seen this list."
Woman: "Google it."
(Note: despite her paranoia, there is a much more innocent reason why I know her name and it has nothing to do with a supposed internet list that uses penises as pictographs.)
She was carrying a lit candle (in a glass) and her bag was pressing against my leg.
I told her to back off, step back, and she refused. Based on long-ago experiences with this woman (which she has obviously forgotten but I am sure she has been a raging bitch to so many people that her treatment of me would not stand out in her memory), as well as a recent experience with another aggressive anti-Zionist, I was not about to wait for her to escalate and possibly hurt me with a lit candle, so I looked at the large group of police officers in the street and called to one of them for help.
That's when I learned that my understanding of Canadian law was incorrect. Apparently, there is a law called "Breach of Peace" that can be invoked at the discretion of a police officer. This lesson has been a few months coming for me. I learned in July that threatening to become a suicide bomber so you can blow up a group of mostly Jewish Zionists does not constitute a "Breach of the Peace". And I learned last night that, as a Zionist, standing in the presence of an anti-Zionist does constitute a "Breach of the Peace".
At the same time that I was calling for assistance from the police, someone in the protest was getting a cop to complain about me.
Now, this is rich. Sandra Ruch, of Code Pink, a group which is in the news again for advertising on the Muslim Brotherhood's website and which has such an excellent relationship with Hamas, was "upset" by my presence.
A cop asked to speak to me away from the group and I refused. He told me I was breaching the peace and had to leave. He said I could voluntarily remove myself to a specified distance from the protest: either about 25-30 metres to the right or left or across the street. If I did not go voluntarily, police officers would escort me away. If I refused, I would be arrested.
Here's where I got stuck. I'm sure the cops would say I was stuck on stupid but I would say that I was stuck on my old concept of the law pertaining to actions rather than feelings and on clearly defined Canadian rights and freedoms.
My conversation with the police went something like this.
Yes, I interrupted them repeatedly. Yes, I know that's not the way to have a constructive dialogue. At no time did I swear or scream or threaten anyone. I mostly kept saying, "But I haven't done anything wrong."
After I asked to speak to someone else because he was being rude to me, one cop's face was quivering with anger; he said no, he was in charge, and he told me to "shut your mouth and stop talking" so he could finish what he was saying. I was in shock: here I was, the rule-follower, being threatened with arrest, when I hadn't broken any rules.
I'm paraphrasing again. I'm also combining the two cops because they pretty much repeated the same things and it doesn't matter which one said what.
Cop: "...Breaching the peace..."
Me: "But I haven't done anything wrong."
(Repeat, repeat, repeat.)
Cop: "Your presence here is upsetting to some people..."
Me: "So my presence is upsetting someone and that's against the law?"
Cop: "Yes. It's called Breaching the Peace... You are welcome to stand over there or across the street..."
Me: "I'll stand off the sidewalk, there, on the street." (The area between the protest and the police.)
Cop: "No, you will not... Officers so-and-so, take this woman across the street..."
Me: "It's against the law for me to stand here?"
Cop: "Your presence here might be a catalyst for something bad to happen. Catalyst, that's a big word."
Me: "I know what catalyst means."
Cop: "No, I was making fun of myself, for knowing such a big word."
Me: "...But I wasn't doing anything wrong..."
Cop: "We're not saying you did... Breach of Peace... Aren't you going to let me finish?"
Me: "No, because you're just going to tell me the same thing..."
Cop: (throwing up his hands and leaving me at the corner) "We're finished here."
Now, throughout this whole thing, a freelance reporter stood nearby with his large camera and no one stopped him from recording anything and no one made him leave. I was threatened with arrest and made to leave because I was identified as a Zionist whose mere presence was so upsetting that I was guilty of a criminal offense.
Did you get that? I think it has finally made its way through my thick skull.
Zionists don't have to do anything wrong to be threatened with arrest for "Breach of Peace".
What had I done? I stood near (but not too close) to a gathering of anti-Israel people. I photographed them as they held their signs and candles on a public sidewalk in a public display of protest which was advertised publicly. I had spoken only when spoken to and then not with any profanity or threats. I did not have any signs, logos, buttons or flags on my person. I did not chant or sing or say anything political. I had called for the police when I felt threatened.
That's why I was like a broken record. I could not understand what I had done wrong until the police made it clear that my very presence was illegal.
It is now illegal in Canada to be a Zionist where anti-Zionists are present.
I would like to be able to tell you the precise location of Toronto's Zionistrein zones but the boundaries are ever-shifting and based entirely on the feelings of anti-Israel activists.
Last night, the one I entered illegally was located in an invisible 30-metre area surrounding the Israeli Consulate. If I understand correctly, that entire area becomes a legally enforced Zionist-free zone for a period of time every Friday evening.
If I were to stand on that area of sidewalk or road today, and behave exactly as I behaved last night, I would not be breaking any laws. I would still be a Zionist but my Zionist presence would not be offending any anti-Zionists.
Zionist face = upsetting to an anti-Zionist = Zionist breaking the law = Zionism is illegal wherever anti-Zionists gather.
If a law-abiding Zionist who has not done anything wrong is legally prevented from being close enough to hear or see an open, public anti-Zionist gathering, does this not mean that Zionism itself has been made illegal in certain places and at certain times in Canada?
Did you hear that? That's the sound of my notion of Canada crashing to the sidewalk at my feet.
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