One man was arrested for assault after nearly hitting a pro-Palestine protester with his vehicle during a rally at the B.C. legislature Sunday afternoon, according to Victoria police.
The incident, which was captured on video, happened around 2 p.m. at the Menzies Street entrance to the legislature grounds, according to Donald Smith.
The video starts with a verbal altercation between the driver of a silver sedan and protesters, then the driver appears to accelerate toward a person on the sidewalk holding a Palestinian flag.
“It was a little scary,” said Smith, who took the video.
Later in the video, the driver gets out of his car and confronts another protester before Protective Services separates them.
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“This got heated. He (the driver) lost his temper,” Smith told CHEK News. “Everybody has a right to protest and democracy, but you don’t have the right to use your car as a weapon.”
In an email, Victoria police tell CHEK News one person was arrested Sunday in relation to the demonstration, and in photos posted to X (formerly Twitter), the same man who was behind the wheel is seen being put into handcuffs.
Man facing charges: VicPD
In an update Monday morning, police say the man was arrested for accelerating his vehicle toward the protester. Charges have been recommended against him, and he’s since been released from custody pending a future court date.
“VicPD supports everyone’s right to safe, peaceful and lawful demonstration, and asks that all citizens respect this right. Dangerous or unlawful activity will continue to be met with de-escalation and enforcement,” the department said in a release.
Police say no further arrests were made, and the demonstration was able to continue without any other incidents.
It was on Oct. 7 when the eyes of the world turned to Israel and Palestine after the attacks by Hamas.
Dock Currie, with the Vancouver Island Peace Council, told CHEK News the incident is appalling. He says these acts of violence come from people who think Palestinian protesters are pro-Hamas.
“That can devolve down into a lot of angry ignorance, and I think that’s what we saw with this gentleman with the car, as I think we’ve seen with the three Palestinian students shot in Vermont, as I think we’ve seen with a bunch of incidents over the last little while,” said Currie.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims is sharing similar sentiments, saying in a statement on X that it’s “deeply concerned” by the incident, calling it “reprehensible.”
“This is the kind of apparent violence we have seen increase across this country … our leaders must step up to stem this tide of hate,” the council said.
B.C.’s human rights commissioner said last month that the Israel-Hamas war has triggered a surge of discrimination and violence toward both Jewish and Muslim people in the province.
The Unite for Peace: March for Palestine rally was scheduled from 1-3 p.m. at the legislature, where organizers asked people to gather and call for a “Ceasefire, Humanitarian Corridors, Protection of Children, Halt to Genocide, and Accountability for War Crimes.”
Currie said the Saturday incident brings up a number of safety concerns for protesters, but it won’t stop them from gathering and spreading their message of peace at future rallies.
“What these people seek by doing these sorts of things is to silence, to censor, to scare people from going out and expressing concern about just an unparalleled level of death and destruction in the span of two months, and those people shouldn’t get what they want,” added Currie.
Victoria police say officers will continue monitoring planned protests to ensure the safety of all community members.
We are deeply concerned by a man who appeared to try to use his car to ram a pro-Palestine protestor in Victoria, BC yesterday before accosting the latter and going on a racist tirade.
This is the kind of apparent violence we have seen increase across this country. It is… pic.twitter.com/N5X661mO2r
— NCCM (@nccm) December 4, 2023
-with files from CHEK’s Mackenzie Read and The Canadian Press