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Montreal protesters call for safer campuses, release of Israeli hostages

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A pro-Israel protest took place in downtown Montreal Thursday afternoon in front of Concordia University, the site of last week's violent clash related to the Israel-Hamas war.

Protesters said they were speaking out against anti-Semitism on university campuses and calling for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza.

Last week, videos of a chaotic altercation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian supporters at Concordia's Hall building circulated on social media.

Two security guards and one student were injured, and a 22-year-old student was arrested for assault.

On Wednesday, Concordia reported that two non-students had been banned from campus following an investigation into the event.

Organizers at Thursday's protest said while they applaud the bans, the university should take more concrete action. 

"We want investigations, expulsions, arrests, whatever has to be made, a clear policy changes, clear policy adjustments -- we need everything that can be done, to be done," Concordia student Anastasia Zorchinsky told CTV News. 

People attend a pro-Israel demonstration in downtown Montreal on Nov. 16, 2023. (CTV News/Matt Gilmour)

Both Jewish and Arab-Muslim students have reported feeling unsafe at school since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. 

Statistics provided by Montreal police show 134 reported hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents between Oct. 7 and Nov. 14.

Of those, 104 reports came from the Jewish community, while 30 reports came from Arab-Muslim communities. 

'BRING THEM HOME NOW'

A large projector was installed in the street as part of Thursday's demonstration, displaying images of hostages and calls for their return.

"Israeli women, babies, elderly, are still held hostage by Hamas," one of the messages reads, with the hashtag #BringThemHomeNow written across the screen.

Some 240 hostages were taken by militant group Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The war has so far claimed 11,200 lives in Gaza, according to its health ministry, while Israeli officials report aroung 1,400 deaths, most of which occurred during the intial Hamas incursion.  

"What's really important for people to realize, is we're dealing against a terrorist group, Hamas. It's not about Jews and Arabs. It's really against Hamas. And there will be no ceasefire until we get back our hostages, every single one of them, and that we completely, once and for all, get rid of Hamas," said protestor Samuel El-Kaim. 

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