Vancouver police arrest 1 over speech that praised Hamas attack

Vancouver police are conducting an investigation to determine if comments made during a protest on Saturday violated hate-crime laws.

In a release Wednesday, the VPD’s Major Crime Section says it made an arrest and launched an investigation on April 26 after a video was posted to social media showing a woman on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery speaking through a microphone to several hundred protestors at a rally. 

Police say the speaker praised the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and referred to terrorist organizations as “heroes.”

“We defend everyone’s right to gather and express their opinions, even when those opinions are unpopular or controversial,” said VPD Sgt. Steve Addison.

“We also have a responsibility to ensure public comments don’t promote or incite hatred, encourage violence, or make people feel unsafe. We will continue to thoroughly investigate every hate incident and will pursue criminal charges whenever there is evidence of a hate crime.”

Premier David Eby spoke to reporters, Monday about the incident, denouncing the speaker’s remarks, calling it “the most hateful” speech he could imagine.

“Celebrating murder, the rape of innocent people — it’s awful, it’s reprehensible, and it shouldn’t take place in British Columbia,” he said while speaking at an unrelated news conference Monday.

“There is clearly an element of some individuals using tragedy — an international tragedy — to promote hate.”

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim shared in Eby’s dismay, calling the remarks a “celebration of terrorism and antisemitism.”

VPD investigators say they have identified the speaker and arrested a 44-year-old Vancouver woman on Monday. The suspect has now been released from custody until further investigation. 

With files from The Canadian Press