Torontonians in Gaza

Don and Carol

Fifty-seven Canadians were among those who gathered in downtown Cairo waving colourful flags amid chants of “freedom for Gaza.” Among them grandparents Don Schmidt and wife Carol Trainor and Catholic teacher David Szollosy.

All of them had travelled to the region to participate in the march. They said they were warned by the Canadian Embassy in Cairo that the Canadian government would not provide assistance to marchers who faced prosecution or arrest.

Police in Cairo attempted to stop the protesters by barricading a hotel where they were believed to be staying, but most activists made it onto the streets before being marshalled into a public square near the Cairo Museum.

“I was yanked from the person whose arm I was linked to, dragged and pushed to the curb and then thrown upon a pile of other marchers, some of whom were visibly hurt,” said Canadian protester Wendy Goldsmith.

“They were screaming for us to ‘get up’ while pulling at us.”

The protesters later regrouped and began chanting and singing despite the heavy police presence.

The penned-in Cairo protesters held their ground until dusk when a decision was made to disperse.

“(We) showed Gaza that even though we are not with them in body today, we are with them in spirit,” Ms. Goldsmith said.

The Gaza freedom march was planned to call attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza on the one-year anniversary of Israel’s three-week war on the territory.

Thirteen Israelis and almost 1,400 Gazans were killed in the conflict which Israel launched to stop years of militant rocket fire on its southern towns.

Israel and Egypt imposed a strict blockade on Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

The blockade has increased poverty in Gaza and prevented it from rebuilding after last winter’s war.

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