A man was arrested for assault and dangerous driving after he drove onto a sidewalk, nearly striking a person during a pro-Palestine rally at the legislature on Sunday afternoon.
A video on social media shows a man in a sedan appearing to swerve toward a person carrying a Palestinian flag on the sidewalk at Government and Belleville streets.
The person, who was wearing a yellow and orange vest, starts to run away as the car begins accelerating and only narrowly avoids being hit.
The driver then gets out of the car and starts arguing with another protester before the two are separated by police.
On Monday, Victoria police said in a statement that the man was arrested for assault with a weapon and dangerous driving.
“VicPD supports everyone’s right to safe, peaceful and lawful demonstration, and asks that all citizens respect this right. Dangerous or unlawful activity will continue to be met with de-escalation and enforcement,” police said.
An initial statement said police had recommended charges and the man had been released with a pending court date, but that was later removed from an online notice.
When asked about the discrepancy, Victoria police spokesperson Griffen Hohl told the Times Colonist the initial statement was updated, as charges have not yet been recommended. Hohl confirmed the arrested man was released with a future court date.
Zaheera Jinnah, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Victoria who researches xenophobia and community resistance, said that she was “extremely concerned” to hear of Sunday’s incident.
“This type of violent, extremist action threatens our safety and our democratic right to protest,” she said in an email, adding that the attack should be thoroughly investigated to the full extent of the law as well as for any possible connections to white supremacy and extremism.
“In videos of the incident the alleged perpetrator is seen and heard and heard yelling Islamophobic and racist comments to peaceful protesters, and intimidating volunteers,” she said.
“We will be looking to the police and all stakeholders to support our communities in the difficult days ahead,” Jinnah said, adding that people will be paying close attention to how police respond to incidents of Islamophobia and other forms of racism.
British Columbia’s human rights commissioner said last month that the Israel-Hamas war has triggered a surge of discrimination and violence toward both Jewish and Muslim people in the province.
Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Victoria following the rally at the legislature without further incident on Sunday.
Victoria has seen regular weekend protests since Oct. 15 calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, international accountability for Israel’s actions in Gaza, and an end to Canadian weapons exports for the Israeli military.
Organizers are in regular contact with police regarding potential safety issues.
— With files from The Canadian Press