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Weekly pro-Palestine rally in Victoria draws hundreds

Victoria police deployed temporary CCTV cameras around downtown, the first time they have done so for a pro-Palestinian march
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A Palestinian flag is carried by demonstrators at the legislature on Saturday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A pro-Palestinian rally and march in Victoria on Saturday drew hundreds of people, despite rainy weather and an attack at last week’s event.

About 450 people gathered at the legislature lawns, where organizers spoke of the need for unity and to focus on stopping Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Protesters then marched through the city core, chanting slogans and calling for the boycott of banks and businesses that they see as supportive of the Israeli military.

Saturday also saw Jewish activists disrupt a federal Liberal Party holiday event held at a private home in Saanich.

A video of the incident shows a masked protester in a kippah telling attendees that they had “blood on their hands” before being forced off the property by a man wearing a red sweater.

Victoria police deployed temporary surveillance cameras around downtown, the first time they have done so for this fall’s pro-Palestinian marches.

Some demonstrators carried signs in remembrance of the poet and academic Refaat ­Alareer, who was killed Thursday in Gaza City during Israeli shelling along with six family members, according to colleagues at We Are Not Numbers, a nonprofit he helped found.

Yahya Odatallah, a rally organizer, told attendees that he was heartened to see so many people. “Weather won’t stop us, nothing will stop us until our demands are met.”

At last week’s rally, a man was arrested after allegedly attempting to drive his car into a protester on a sidewalk near the legislature. The man has since been released from custody and has a pending court date for assault and dangerous driving.

In a statement, demonstration organizers condemned the incident as hate-motivated and asked leaders in the capital region to stand up against violence. “We will not be deterred from our goal of drawing attention to the genocide unfolding in Gaza and humanizing the loss and grief of Palestinians, including people in our community in Victoria who have close ties to the region.”

Organizers said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto’s call for a ceasefire and her visit to the Masjid Al-Iman Mosque last week was a “welcome first step,” but noted that others have not followed, singling out Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock.

Murdock, who could not be contacted on Saturday, has been asked to make a public statement on the conflict for weeks, but has yet to do so, they said.

Organizers said the demonstrations will return every Saturday for the rest of the month.

— with files from The Associated Press

mjlo@timescolonist.com