Hundreds of Torontonians flooded two north-end neighbourhoods Saturday, showing their support for the Muslim communities there that have been affected by acts of Islamophobia in the wake of last week's deadly attacks in Paris.
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Organizers of the Gathering Against Islamophobia have expressed alarm over a recent string of anti-Muslim incidents, which include the beating and robbery of a mother outside of an elementary school.
Shiri Pasternak brought her three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son to the march, saying she wanted to teach them early on in life about the importance of protesting against injustice and racism.
"I told her we were going to this rally because people were being attacked because of the colour of their skin, what they wore and their religion," the Toronto woman told CBC News. "And she said, 'I don't think that's right … I'd like to go support people.'"
At the rally, dozens of people said students have been missing from Grenoble Public School and the middle school in the Flemindon Park area where the woman was attacked. Several mothers have been frightened to walk their children to school, parents said at the rally.
Two other Muslim women say they were recently accosted on the TTC, while a University of Toronto student was allegedly spat on and insulted near Robarts Library. Last weekend, the only mosque in Peterborough, Ont., was intentionally set ablaze.
The march Saturday drew the community together and hopefully showed the victims of these attacks that they have the support of their neighbours, said Amna Savowala.
"As a community, we stand behind them," she said before walking through Flemingdon Park. "Their pain is our pain."
Hundreds of people came together Saturday from the Muslim, immigrant and refugee communities of Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park.
They carried signs protesting Islamophobia and walked through the neighbourhood after setting off from Valley Park Middle School. A similar demonstration was held downtown on Friday.
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"This is an assertion of community strength," Syad Hussan said. "We are here, we are organized, we're not leaving — and this is us bonding together."
Organizers of Saturday's march are also calling for an end to the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, which they say have "exacerbated anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment."