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August 5, 2013

Blogger Geller testifying before Toronto police board over nixed shul talk

http://www.jewishjournal.com/world/article/blogger_geller_testifying_before_toronto_police_board_over_nixed_shul_talk

Pamela Geller, seen outside the Wilshire Boulevard headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, on June 24. Photograph by Jonah Lowenfeld

Pamela Geller, seen outside the Wilshire Boulevard headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, on June 24. Photograph by Jonah Lowenfeld

Blogger Pamela Geller said she will testify over a complaint she filed against a Toronto-area police force in the cancellation of a synagogue appearance.

Geller told JTA via email on Monday that she was scheduled to testify Wednesday via Skype before a hearing of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director in Toronto, which oversees grievances against area police.

She alleges that the York Regional Police, north of Toronto, threatened and bullied Rabbi Mendel Kaplan into canceling her appearance last May at his Chabad synagogue because of her strident anti-Islamist views.

Kaplan is a volunteer chaplain with the force, and Geller accused the police of threatening to remove him from the post if he did not comply.

Geller’s complaint claims “breach of police policy and conduct pursuant to the police Code of Conduct and the York Regional Police’s Code of Professional Ethics.”

York Regional Police said the complaint was lodged with the OIPRD.

Complaints can take 120 days to resolve, an OIPRD official said, though the official did not confirm or deny a complaint was brought by Geller.

In a statement last May, York Regional Police said reports that Kaplan had been threatened were “a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts.”

According to police, the rabbi canceled Geller’s talk because “it would place him in conflict with the values of our organization, which support a safe, welcoming and inclusive community for all.”

Kaplan told JTA that he has already given evidence to the complaint’s investigators.

Asked whether he ever felt intimidated or threatened, he said, “There was a very clear choice laid out to me. The police said, ‘we don’t believe this agrees with [our] values, so either you have to give up your chaplaincy or you can have this speech.’

“I did something that I didn’t necessarily want to do because I had to do it.” He added, “It was a wise decision not to host her because it was not something worth losing my chaplaincy over.”

Geller’s talk, sponsored by the Jewish Defense League, was moved to another venue, where she lashed out at the police. She  later wrote that “jackbooted thugs” had used “intimidation” on Kaplan to persuade him to cancel the synagogue talk.

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