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Video appears to show officer with knee on pro-Palestinian protestor’s neck; Toronto police say it didn’t happen

A group of protesters who staged a rally in support of Palestinians last weekend released video Tuesday of a violent arrest that appears to show an officer kneeling on a man’s neck. But Toronto police say the tactic — something the former chief said cops are not trained to do — wasn’t used.  

The Toronto chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), which helped organize the Sunday rally in downtown Toronto, said in a statement that an “attendee was brutalized and arrested” at the event.

A previous video shared on social media on the weekend showed an officer kneeling on a 32-year-old man’s neck and head area, although the newly-released video shows a clearer vantage of the arrest.

The PYM also said in a statement that police officers restraining someone this way reflects “violent tactics used by police across the world.”

Toronto police refuted the PYM’s accusations in a statement to CBC Toronto Tuesday afternoon.

“On review of available footage of this matter, we maintain that the officer did not place his knee on the suspect’s neck,” Stephanie Sayer, a spokesperson for the force, said in an email.

Sayer described the event as “sudden and unexpected.” She said in dynamic situations, cops are trained to use the amount of force necessary to make a situation “safe for all involved, including the public and officers.”

Toronto police have charged the man who was arrested with assaulting and obstructing a peace officer.

In a statement regarding the incident, police said a police vehicle was travelling southbound on University Avenue at around 2:25 p.m. and trying to turn left onto Armoury Street in downtown Toronto Sunday. 

Officers were escorting the vehicle while about 500 protesters were in the area, police said. Investigators allege one of the officers was then pushed off of his bicycle and shoved to the ground.

A bunch of police officers crowd a person and arrest them.
In a video published on Instagram by the Palestinian Youth Movement’s Toronto chapter, multiple officers can be seen holding a person on the ground. (Pymtoronto/Instagram)

A video published on Instagram by the PYM’s Toronto chapter shows multiple officers holding a person on the ground. The video begins once the person is on the ground and does not show what led to the altercation.

In the video, one officer appears to repeatedly punch the person while another officer places their knee and shin on the person’s head. Later in the video, multiple other police officers surround the officers making the arrest, obstructing the view of the camera. 

The 32-year-old Toronto man will appear in court on Jan. 25.

Police not trained to kneel on neck, former chief said

Former Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders came out against the practice of knee-on-neck restraint at a news conference in 2020, after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

“I want to be clear that this organization does not, and I repeat, does not train for this. Our members are trained for knee to belt-line techniques. We also train for positional asphyxiation and how to minimize loss of life,” Saunders said. 

Former Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee told CBC News he was surprised to see the way the protester was restrained.

“This video seems to suggest that police officers on the ground are still doing the things they’re not supposed to be doing,” he said.

“I think it raises questions of how is it that there were so many police and they could not restrain one person without using knee-to-neck restraint.”

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