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Rosie DiManno: Jeers and loathing on University Ave.

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“We were here first!”

I am beholden to Michelle De Freitas for putting a smile on my face amidst what was an otherwise toxic stew of venom outside the University Ave. courthouse Saturday afternoon.

(And for the ciggie too. Imagine leaving the house for what promised to be a long, rhetoric-infused demo and forgetting one’s smokes. Rookie mistake.)

De Freitas is part of a pro-Julian Assange cadre that holds its weekly protest gig at this corner, across from the U.S. Consulate. Assange is a monumental narcissist, alleged rapist and likely to be charged with treason when Americans get their extradition hands on him. Hacker, not journalist. But that’s a story for another day.

On this day, De Freitas and her handful of likewise-minded had assumed the position, as per usual, but by early afternoon their demonstration had been swamped by the Al Quds Day rally, a now annual global observation cooked up in Iran, ostensibly in support of Palestinians.

“This is crazy,” grouched De Freitas, about getting big-footed by the Quds throng. “Exactly what the government wants, people hating each other.”

What government? De Freitas didn’t mean it that way but Iranian government, I’d say.

Nowhere near the crowd size of 3,000 that an organizer told me had been expected. Senior police officers on the scene wouldn’t provide an estimate. But maybe 400, I’d say, and that’s being generous.

Amplified on the periphery by a mélange of counterdemonstrators, usual protest groupies, hardcore haters, kooks and bunch of folks clearly off their meds. Like the self-described “Hindu nationalist” promising salvation to converts. And the dude in a Kevlar vest and hard hat, prepared for rock-throwing. And the fellow who got in my face, accused me of being a “fake news” subversive, demanding I show my reporter........

© Toronto Star