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100 Vancouver police sent to protect Trudeau after Gaza protest surrounds restaurant

About 250 people showed up to the restaurant.

VANCOUVER — Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters surrounded a Vancouver Chinatown restaurant where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was dining Tuesday night, with scores of police sent to control the crowd that was chanting for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Sgt. Steve Addison said police used a Taser to subdue one man who was arrested for assaulting an officer, while another was arrested for obstruction.

Addison told a news conference that police were concerned about "specific actions" by the protesters, including the moving of protective barricades. 

He said 100 officers attended what he called a "spontaneous" protest by about 250 people just before 10 p.m. He said the officers had been sent to control the crowd so Trudeau could leave the restaurant.

Videos showed protesters waving Palestinian flags, shouting slogans and jeering Trudeau outside the Bagheera restaurant and cocktail bar on Main Street in Chinatown.

Addison said police would recommend charges against a 27-year-old man from Coquitlam, B.C., who was arrested after an officer was punched in the face and her eyes were gouged while she was trying to disperse the crowd. He said the officer was taken to hospital.

Another protester was arrested for obstruction of police. Addison said he had been released and "charges may be forthcoming." 

Addison said the department was aware of videos circulating on social media showing protesters confronting the prime minister earlier in the evening, but he couldn't provide details about the police response. 

The videos show Trudeau being heckled by protesters inside Vij's, a restaurant in a different part of the city, demanding he call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

Trudeau is seen speaking to other diners then embracing celebrity restaurateur Vikram Vij, who accompanies the prime minister as he leaves the restaurant, trailed by chanting protesters.

Charlotte Kates, an organizer with the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, said she was at both protests.

She said the protesters could not sit by and let political leaders "go about ordinary business."

"We want Canada to take a real position on this issue and not simply say that, you know, the Israeli occupation should be restrained," she said.

Earlier Tuesday, Trudeau had urged Israel's government to "exercise maximum restraint" in its war against Hamas, which has included regular airstrikes in Gaza.

Addison said Vancouver had seen a "significant increase" in the number of people gathering to protest since the Israeli-Hamas war began last month. 

"We've also seen a significant increase in the emotions that people are expressing as they do gather to protest," he said. 

Addison said the city typically averages more than 800 protests a year, focused mainly on environmental or "geopolitical" causes, but 2023 is "well on pace to exceed 1,000 protests in the city of Vancouver."

"There have been some conflicts. There have been some clashes, and there are police investigations that have resulted from some activity that has occurred at protests," he said.

"We have a long history of protests in the city of Vancouver. We support people's right to peacefully assemble to express themselves, but we also have responsibility to balance that right with maintaining order and upholding the rule of law."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2023.

The Canadian Press