Windsor

'You can't pick and choose': Palestinian-Canadians say fining them and not soccer fans for gathering is unfair

Members of the Palestinian community in Windsor say it was unfair they were ticketed at a rally in May under Ontario's pandemic rules, but soccer fans weren't held accountable by bylaw officers for taking to the streets after Italy won its recent Euro Cup soccer match.

'Every situation presents unique circumstances and considerations for police': Windsor police constable

Rasha Zaid, organizer of a rally of Palestinian-Canadians in Windsor, Ont., says it's unfair 25 tickets were issued at the May event under pandemic rules, while Euro Cup soccer fans faced no repercussions for similar behaviour this week. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Members of the Palestinian community in Windsor, Ont., say it was unfair they were ticketed at a rally in May, but soccer fans weren't held accountable by bylaw officers for taking to the streets earlier this week after Italy won its recent Euro Cup soccer match.

"You can't pick and choose which citizens you want to hold accountable for an action and turn a blind eye to other citizens that are committing the same exact action," said Rasha Zaid, who received an $800 ticket at the spring rally for violating pandemic rules under the Reopening Ontario Act.

Earlier this week, dozens of people in Windsor took to the streets with flags in hand, and people in cars were honking horns and standing through the sunroofs of their vehicles after Italy defeated Spain to earn a spot in Sunday's final.

Police said Wednesday no tickets were issued for breaching Ontario's Reopening Act or municipal bylaws.

Members of Windsor's Palestinian community say more than 25 tickets were issued during the rally they held.

Zaid said learning  no one at the soccer celebration was ticketed for similar behaviour was "extremely devastating."

Zaid said rally organizers co-ordinated with Windsor police before the start of the event, giving them the chance to ensure an appropriate level of enforcement was posted around the downtown area.

But according to police, that pre-planning is what made Tuesday's celebration in Windsor's Via Italia neighbourhood so different from the May rally.

On May 19, members of the Palestinian community gathered for a demonstration along Windsor's riverfront. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"The main difference here is the [May] demonstration was a planned event with a planned police presence due to the number of people expected in attendance," said Const. Natalya Natyshak, adding Tuesday's celebration of Italy's victory was "impromptu".

"Every situation presents unique circumstances and considerations for police. No two calls are ever the same."

But for Zaid, that explanation is "not fair." She said she feels she's being punished for co-ordinating with police beforehand.

"When you try to become an obedient citizen to the law and do things the right way, you're being held accountable. But when you're doing it without letting them know, you're getting away with it."

Ahmed Farhan, who attended the May rally, is one of the Palestinian-Canadians who was in attendance. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Ahmed Farhan, who attended the May rally, said ticketing organizers of a pre-planned rally "shouldn't be an excuse to crack down on those people harder."

"I don't want this to be like an attack on the Italian community or anybody else out there celebrating whatever makes them happy," said Farhan.

"I think this is more of a criticism of what the Windsor police institution itself looks like, and recognizing when things don't seem fair and when people are pointing that out."

We do not condone the behaviours seen on the roadways [Tuesday] and the possibility of drivers or passengers being charged if identified still exist.- Const. Natalya Natyshak, Windsor Police Service

However, Windsor police are not ruling out the possibility of laying charges against some of those in Tuesday's celebration in the Via Italia neighbourhood.

"We do not condone the behaviours seen on the roadways [Tuesday], and the possibility of drivers or passengers being charged if identified still exist," Natyshak said in a police statement.

Windsor police said they will be "monitoring activities" after the Italy-England Euro Cup final for public safety management, traffic offences and noise violations.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sanjay Maru is a reporter at CBC Windsor. Email him at sanjay.maru@cbc.ca.

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