Man with swastika on chest charged after 2 separate antisemitic incidents in Toronto
Michael Park, 32, faces charges of assault and assault with a weapon
Toronto police have arrested a man in two separate "hate-motivated" incidents where antisemitic slurs were hurled at victims.
The first incident was on July 6, when police were called to Stanley Park in the King Street West and Walnut Avenue area around 8 a.m.
Police say 32-year-old Michael Park was seen with a drawing of a swastika on his chest, and allegedly yelled antisemitic slurs at a person, before throwing an object at them.
He was arrested nearby and charged with assault with a weapon as well as two municipal bylaw infractions related to behaviour in parks.
Four days later, police say a separate victim encountered the same man, this time in the Yonge Street and Glen Elm Avenue area. Again, the suspect displayed a drawing of a swastika on his chest and was heard yelling antisemitic slurs at three Jewish women, according to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
When the victim confronted the man about his language, he was punched multiple times.
Park was arrested not far from the scene and charged with one count of assault. He appeared in court at Old City Hall on Saturday and was set to appear by video again Thursday.
'I had to stand up for what's right'
Stephanie Bjurstrom had been walking through Stanley Park to get her morning coffee with her baby and a friend, when she says she spotted a man on a bench with a swastika drawn on his chest.
As she looked back at him, she says he told her, "Oh, you're a dirty Jew, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I'm Jewish," she says she replied. "What are you going to do about it?"
"He started going on about how I'm not part of the Aryan race and how Jews aren't worthy... and saluting Hitler."
At that point a man intervened and said he would call the police, at which point Bjurstrom turned to leave. She says Park started walking toward her and began filming, before police arrived.
"Both my grandparents on my mom's side survived the Holocaust, so for me this hit close to home," she said. "I knew that they wouldn't want to hear that this life exists in Canada... I had to stand up for what's right."
Police say both incidents are being investigated as hate-motivated.
"Like all members of society, Jews should be able to walk down the street with confidence in our safety and security," CIJA said in a statement. "Over the past few months, Jewish Canadians — already the most targeted religious minority in this country according to Statistics Canada — have witnessed an alarming rise in hate-motivated harassment, vandalism, and assault."
Hate crime complaints and arrests in Toronto jumped sharply last year, with Jewish and Black people the most common targets, according to an annual police report.
The federal government last week announced two emergency national summits — one on antisemitism and one on Islamophobia — will take place on July 21 and July 22, respectively.
With files from Dalia Ashry