More than a dozen people gathered outside a mosque in the heart of downtown Toronto with loudspeakers and banners in hand, shouting slogans about banning Islam as Muslims gathered to pray inside.
The protest happened Friday outside Masjid Toronto on Dundas Street West near University Avenue.
The shouting was so loud that Tera Goldblatt, who works on the 21st floor in a nearby building, said she could hear it from inside her office.
When she came down to see what was going on, she said, she saw some 15 people screaming, some blocking the path of those trying to enter the mosque.
"The response from the people who were trying to get inside was very sort of 'Oh well, they're entitled to their opinion' and 'Oh well, I guess that's just part of life,'" Goldblatt said.
"And it makes me really angry because that's not part of life and it's not freedom of speech. It's awful and hateful and it shouldn't be allowed."
'It's very upsetting'
Mohamed Abdi, a member of the mosque, said it's the first time he's seen such a strong backlash against his religion.
"I was under the assumption that lately there's been a lot of sentiment and positivity towards the Muslim communities, especially with recent events," Abdi said. "It's very upsetting that this did happen."
Bryant Greenbaum also witnessed the protest. "You don't do it in front of a place of worship on the holiest day of the week for Muslim people, and in an intimidating manner," he told CBC Toronto.
Mayor John Tory and city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam sent tweets condemning the protest.
Islamophobia has NO place in our city. I've visited Masjid Toronto many times & denounce all acts of hatred towards our Muslim citizens.— @JohnTory
In an email, Toronto police Const. Jenniferjit Sidhu said police will investigate possible hate crimes if an official complaint is reported.
'Islam is hate'
A protester carrying a sign with a list of women's names — victims of alleged honour killings — told CBC Toronto she was protesting Islam because when Muslim immigrants come to Canada "they don't want to follow the law of the country."
Another woman gathered at the downtown mosque to challenge M-103, a House of Commons motion to condemn Islamophobia and track incidents of hate crime against Muslims.[Islamophobia]
is not hate," she said. "Islam is hate."
A Facebook post by a group called Never Again Canada celebrated the incident as a "great rally today in support of free speech."
"We will never be silenced," the post said.
Protest prompts acts of love
But the protest also resulted in some other unexpected messages — from strangers who wanted to show their support for those inside.
The following are just some of the signs taped to the mosque's exterior in the rally's wake.