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Calgary police chief says actions against pro-Palestinian protest were 'prudent'


Calgary's top cop is standing by the officers involved in clearing a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Calgary last week.

On May 9, the Calgary Police Service helped to the campus security officers clear a demonstration on the school's property that showed no sign of dispersing.

Around 11:15 p.m. that day, officers used non-lethal force such as rubber bullets, tear gas and flash bangs to break up the protest and arrested a number of people at the scene.

Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld, speaking with CTV Morning Live Calgary on Tuesday, said he's heard demonstrators were hurt during the police operation, but that no one has come forward so far.

"So, if that's the case, I think there should be pathways for people to come forward and report those situations to an independent body."

He says the University of Calgary took a "very reasonable and prudent stance" in regards to the protest.

"Obviously they are going to allow freedom of expression and assembly for the student body on campus – that's never been controversial. The issue was the actual encampments and occupation.

"The university has got a policy against that and they were very concerned."

Neufeld said the University of Calgary had the benefit of seeing what occurred at other universities in Canada, North America and the even the rest of the world.

"This arrived in Alberta a little bit later, probably because of our wet spring, but we anticipated that this might come."

He added, "it was made very clear that protests were not a problem at all, it was just the encampments that we had an issue with."

CPS under investigation

On Monday, the Alberta government announced it would direct the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province's police watchdog, to investigate the actions of the CPS in relation to the protest.

"There is a way to peacefully protest, and you have to protest in compliance with the law," Premier Danielle Smith said during question period at the Alberta legislature on Monday, reiterating comments she made the day after the U of C protest was shut down.

"We have watched as protests have gotten out of control at (University of California, Los Angeles), at Columbia (University in New York), where the universities were trashed and vandalized and Jewish students were made to feel unwelcome and fearful.

“These are the kinds of things that they have to make sure that they are on guard for, so that it doesn't get out of control."

Communication breaking down

Before the protesters even stepped onto University of Calgary property, they were in contact with the Calgary Police Service, Neufeld says.

"We really wanted to make sure we were communicating with students so that they understood what was going to happen with respect to the university campus," he said.

"The reality of it is, cooperating with police to actually minimize the impact of protests on the community doesn't get headlines."

As a result, Neufeld says the communication lines between police and demonstrators are failing.

"It's not going in a good direction, quite frankly."

Neufeld says his members always welcome the input from ASIRT and "will cooperate fully with any reviews."

(With files from CTV Edmonton) Top Stories

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