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July 20, 2022 3:04 pm

Alarm Among Toronto Jews as ‘Swastika Man’ Serial Offender Is Released by Court

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avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Toronto resident Michael Park is seen with a swastika drawn on his chest on July 6, when he carried out an antisemitic assault. Photo: courtesy of CIJA.

A Toronto man who pleaded guilty to three separate hate crimes targeting Jews has been released on probation by a local judge, triggering concern in the city’s Jewish community.

Michael Park was sentenced on Wednesday to 36 months of probation following his guilty plea and will now be released. His probation is governed by a number of conditions, including not being allowed within 10 meters (32 feet) of a synagogue or other Jewish institution, along with a ban on possession of weapons and consumption of cannabis and other drugs.

Dubbed “Swastika Man” after being photographed with the Nazi symbol drawn on his chest, the 33-year-old Park was arrested three times during 2021 for three separate antisemitic incidents in the space of two months.

On July 6,  a shirtless Park was photographed with a swastika drawn on his chest shortly after he was seen yelling antisemitic slurs and throwing objects at another person at Stanley Park, in the King Street West and Walnut Avenue area of Toronto. He was arrested nearby and charged with assault with a weapon, as well as two municipal bylaw infractions related to behavior in parks.

However, four days later, there was another antisemitic incident involving Park, this time in the Yonge Street and Elm Street area. Again, Park displayed a drawing of a swastika on his chest and was heard yelling antisemitic slurs at three Jewish women. When a man who witnessed the outrage confronted Park about his antisemitic language, he was punched multiple times.

In September, Park was arrested a third time for harassing a woman, Sarah Gillis, as she waited for a train on a subway platform. Gillis recounted that Park had asked her twice whether she was a Jew. When Gillis didn’t respond, Park gave a Nazi salute and asked her if she knew what the gesture meant.

“So I said to him, ‘Have a nice day,’” Gillis recalled. “That’s when he said, ‘You are a Jew,’ and he came towards me.”

Park abruptly grabbed Gillis, who is not Jewish, forcing her into a headlock before another man intervened, pulling him off. According to the victim, Park then fled the scene by jumping on a subway train.

A leading official with one Canadian Jewish advocacy group expressed alarm at Park’s probationary sentence, calling it “incredibly shocking and disheartening that our justice system would release such a violent individual, who has demonstrated no evidence of remorse and has a clear hatred toward Jews, back into society without any clear plan to protect the Jewish community at large.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), remarked that “the assaults Park committed occurred in public places, and there is a high risk he will re-offend.”

Kirzner-Roberts said the FSWC commended “the Crown prosecutor and the Toronto Police Service and its Hate Crime Unit, which have been extremely responsive to the incidents and the community’s concerns, but the final decision by the court is very unsettling. As Toronto’s Jewish community remains the most targeted group when it comes to hate crimes, it’s extremely important for our legal system to enact measures that will protect Jews and all minority groups from violent attacks.”

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