Two groups were involved: the Palestinian Youth Movement, an international group whose local chapter has been responsible for the largest pro-Palestinian rallies in Toronto, and “Jews Say No to Genocide,” a coalition of local pro-Palestinian Jewish groups that made its public debut last Sunday at a PYM rally attended by more than 25,000 people.
“For those of you who are commuting, this will continue to happen, we will continue to take up space,” said a protest organizer with a megaphone. “Life cannot continue as normal while people are being slaughtered. It is not normal to continue our lives and go to work while war crimes are happening.”
At about 10 a.m., the protesters, who were sitting in the Bay Concourse for about two hours, started to march through the station and converged outside Union Station on Front Street as the sit-in came to an end.
Honks of support came from passing cars outside the station as the protesters continued chanting for a ceasefire.
“We want to remind people anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Thank you for supporting the Palestinian people when they need it most,” one of the organizers said over a megaphone as the demonstration came to a close.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in Gaza during an Israeli bombardment and land invasion, including thousands of children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
The Israeli assault began in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which left 1,400 people dead, and saw 240 taken as hostages, according to Israel.
In the initial aftermath of the Hamas attack, western countries, including Canada, were quick to assert Israel’s right to defend itself.
As the Israeli military’s offensive in Gaza has continued over the past month, there have been increasing calls for restraint amid a humanitarian crisis there.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said a humanitarian pause is needed, one long enough to allow foreign nationals to escape Gaza and to allow more aid to flow into the territory. Trudeau has faced renewed pleas this week to call for a full ceasefire.
“We’re trying to raise the alarm, once again, to call for an immediate ceasefire, an end to Canadian complicity in Israel’s genocide and the lifting of the 17-year blockade of Gaza,” said Gur Tsabar, a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, a national Jewish organization that opposes what it describes as Israeli oppression of Palestinians.
One of the organizers at Thursday’s sit-in says many more are to come, including a large demonstration at Nathan Phillips Sunday. “If you don’t hear us now, you will soon.”
With files from The Canadian Press