Assault and vandalism charges for Pickering man who allegedly tore down Palestinian flag

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Published October 18, 2023 at 4:59 pm

Flag of Palestine
The flag of Palestine by Kameel Sulaiman via Flickr

A man from Pickering faces criminal charges after allegedly tearing a Palestinian flag off a car, leaving an offensive note and ultimately assaulting the owner.

The man walked into a home driveway near Finch Ave. and Brock Rd. and ripped the Palestinian flag of the car, according to Durham Regional Police. He left a note on the car with a message scrawled on it investigators called “offensive.”

The homeowner came out of the house and confronted the man. According to police, a physical struggle occurred between the pair. During this fight, the homeowner was struck by the other man’s keys, police say.

Nearby witnesses came to the homeowner’s aid and restrained the suspect. Other bystanders called the police, who soon arrived and arrested the man without further issues.

Howard Cooper, 63 of Pickering, is charged with assault with a weapon and mischief, which is defined as “the wilful destruction of property” in the Canadian Criminal Code. Durham Police are in discussions with the Attorney General’s office to determine if the charges should be considered a hate crime.

“In light of the recent global events that have amplified concerns and uncertainties, we want to reassure our community that we are deeply committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all our residents,” police said. “We are actively collaborating with our faith-based leaders and communities to foster understanding and unity.”

These recent events police describe is a renewal of violence between Gaza Strip-based terror group, Hamas, and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). While hostilities between Isreal and Palestine go back beyond even Israel’s 1947 founding, the recent wave of violence began over the Thanksgiving weekend.

On Oct. 7, thousands of Hamas militants breached the fence surrounding Gaza, a city of two million people. The city has been under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power in 2006. Amnesty International has called the contained city an “open-air prison” for Palestinians. Roughly half of the Gazan population are children.

After breaching the wall and invading by boat, Hamas fighters attacked civilian homes, military bases and a concert near the Gaza border. They slaughtered roughly 1,400 Israeli civilians including children and babies. Hamas also kidnapped roughly 200 hostages and took them back to Gaza to exchange for their imprisoned allies.

Israel quickly formed a new unity government and launched a full-scale assault on Gaza to root out Hamas fighters. They also suspended the supply of food, water, fuel and medicine into the city and cut off electric power. However, international pressure has pushed Israel to allow some supplies into Gaza. The blockade has been criticized as “collective punishment,” a war crime under international law.

The IDF has been bombarding Gaza with airstrikes since formally declaring a state of war after the Oct. 7 attack. They warned 1.1 million Palestinian civilians to flee the northside of the city but Hamas-blocked roads and forced residents to stay.

Those who were able to flee ended up stuck between the air strikes and the Isreali and Egyptian borders, both of which are impassable for them. Israeli action has killed around 3,500 people.

The violence in the Levant has led to ripple effects throughout the world. It has inspired countless demonstrations of support of both sides, including in Mississauga. It has also provoked local controversy with Hamilton MPP Sarah Jama facing calls to resign for her support of Palestine.

Additionally, most Canadians believe there is no way for Israel and Palestime to find a lasting peace.

It has also caused local violence like that seen in Pickering. Hamas called for an international “Day of Rage” hoping to get supporters to commit violence around the world, particularly targeting Jewish people. This prompted statements from police services across Canada about highened patrols and attention for faith-based communities.

Numerous Canadian police services, such as the RCMP, the OPP and Toronto Police have stepped up patrols and supports. This includes Durham Regional Police who declared they were doing the same amid the Hamas call.

However, Chief Peter Moriera stressed the service had not identified any specific “credible threat” to the area. “DRPS monitors events that could impact community safety. We have confirmed there is currently no credible threats to the Durham Region. We continue to have proactive police patrols and engagement,” he wrote.

“As a police organization, our responsibility lies in assessing situations and, where warranted, filing charges,” police said after the assault. This is the first incident police have reported with direct connection to this Isreal-Hamas War.

Anyone with information about the assault can call police at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 2565 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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