A Liberal MP is considering filing criminal charges after his downtown London, Ont., office was vandalized during a pro-Palestinian rally over the weekend.
Peter Fragiskatos, MP for London North Centre, told Global News on Tuesday that his constituency office, located at 231 Hyman St., was sprayed with ketchup on Sunday afternoon as demonstrators marched through downtown.
“I have no problem with protests. It’s part of free expression, and all of that is part of democracy,” Fragiskatos said. “What I do have a challenge with, to say the least, is vandalism.
“This was done to simulate the blood of Palestinian civilians,” he added.
Three large pro-Palestinian rallies have taken place in London since Hamas carried out a multifront attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health says more than 5,700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its offensive, including 2,300 children.
Fragiskatos issued a statement on the conflict last week, saying that he “condemns what Hamas had carried out against innocent Israeli civilians,” calling it “one of the most heinous acts to be perpetrated against a civilian population since the Second World War.”
The Liberal MP, who has served on the foreign affairs and international development as well as the public safety and national security committees, also said that he supported Israel’s right to defend itself and called on the Israeli government to respect international law in allowing aid into Gaza.
“International law is crucial here [and] is what protects civilians during war,” Fragiskatos said. “That is what I emphasized while also calling for a Palestinian state [and] underlining the importance of that as something that’s absolutely vital as a prerequisite to peace in the region.”
Fragiskatos, who is also a former political science professor, told Global News that he stands by his statement, saying that he believes it to have balance.
“It is a very balanced perspective on the issue — an issue that I’ve been very familiar with for the past 20-plus years, even as a professor at Western University, where I taught on the subject and where I’ve written on the history and politics of the wider region,” he said.
“This is an issue I care about,” Fragiskatos continued. “The views that I have are based on all of those experiences. It was an objective point of view that I’ve put forward, one based on care and concern.”
But the MP told Global News that he also believes that his office was targeted due to the Liberal Party’s position on the ongoing conflict.
“I think they obviously disagree with the position of the federal government on what’s transpiring in the Middle East right now,” he said.
Fragiskatos also said that video surveillance captured the vandalism at his office around 3 p.m. on Sunday, highlighting the number of demonstrators who watched the incident occur.
“This was an act carried out by a few individuals, but I emphasize my deep disappointment that no one stepped up to stop it from happening,” he said. “But I should underline the actions of London Police who prevented it from escalating further.”
He said that officers monitoring the protest were on site and “de-escalated the situation.”
“I understand that it was ketchup that was used, [but] that’s very much beside the point,” Fragiskatos stressed. “When we have constituents who want to show up to a community office to get help, these sites cannot be places where individuals congregate and vandalize the premises. It’s not conducive to democratic expression.”
“Vandalism and democracy simply don’t mix. It’s that simple.”
Fragiskatos said that he’s still considering filing criminal charges in relation to the incident, adding that accountability needs to be taken.
“This is not something that can happen again,” he said. “This has to be deterred somehow, and a charge could do that. I don’t want any more vandalism to take place at our office as we’ve had that happen before during the pandemic.”
In 2021, World Beyond War activists painted red tank tracks along MP’s constituency offices in London, including Fragiskatos’, and said they were meant to call attention to Canada’s controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Now, with regard to Sunday’s incident, Fragiskatos said that he is “genuinely concerned about what happens next.”
“Do we have to worry about bricks being thrown through windows?” he asked. “Do I have to worry about my door being kicked in? Do I have to worry about my home or staff homes being targeted? This is just not acceptable.”
However, the three-term MP says that he “doesn’t think the actions carried out by the individuals who vandalized the office are representative in any way of the wider Muslim community.”
London police confirmed to Global News that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
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