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Arrests made at Israel/Gaza demonstrations Sunday


UPDATE: Calgary police have released the names of four people charged after a weekend protest involving both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli activists. CLICK HERE to read more. 

Calgary Police made five arrests Sunday at a large demonstration involving pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli crowds on opposite sides of Macleod Trail at City Hall.

An estimated 2,000 demonstrators attended the events, according to the Calgary Police Service. 

There was a heavy police presence downtown, which included officers mounted on horseback as well as liaison officers and other specialty units and RCMP.

"Leading up to the event, we engaged with several community leaders and protest organizers, who indicated they expected large crowd sizes," police said in a Sunday night press release. "In response, a number of CPS resources were deployed in anticipation of today's event."

Police say several demonstrators deployed smoke devices within the crowd and a large group marched throughout the downtown core. Several streets were closed due to the size.

After the march, officers say around 100 protesters separated from the group and continued marching to the intersection of Macleod Train and 4 Avenue S.E. where they halted traffic.

Police say behaviour in the crowd escalated and five arrests were made.

Three demonstrators have been charged with assaulting a peace officer and a fourth person was charged with obstructing a peace officer. The fifth person was released without charges.

"We continue to appeal to all demonstrators to act responsibly and protest within the laws," CPS said. "Anyone who jeopardizes public peace, endangers others, or participates in illegal activities, will be held accountable for their actions."


Two weeks ago, Wesam Cooley, a 32 year old organizer of the rallies, was charged with causing a disturbance with a hate motivation applied to the charge. That charge was stayed on Friday.

"I asked, what was the offensive comment? I was told 'from the river to the sea' was the comment. I asked 'anything else?' And I was told 'no,'" Cooley said. He also goes by Wesam Khalid.

To much of the Jewish community, the phrase is seen as anti-Semitic. It has been interpreted as calling for the removal of the state of Israel.

Cooley again led the crowd in the chant on Sunday, but says the call should not be heard as an attack on the Jewish community.

"Jewish people of this country should not feel threatened by this chant, we are opposed to all forms of racism including anti-semitism," he said.

Across the street the pro-Israel demonstrators held placards showing the faces of hostages held by Hamas since the Oct. 7 attacks on Jewish residential communities and a large music festival.

Another 240 were taken hostage by Hamas, according to the Israeli government.

"They're trying to destroy all of us, not share the land with us," said Debbie Halpern.

"We weren't supposed to experience this, this kind of hate this is like ... I thought we were past that and obviously we're not," Halpern said, her voice beginning to crack with emotion.

Those with family in Gaza are wrestling with similar emotions. The death toll there has been devastating, with estimates as high as 12,000 people killed in various air strikes and military operations.

"Everybody has the right to live in justice and dignity," says Hayat Amer. She has lived in Calgary for 35 years, but much of her family is in Gaza. "If there is peace and justice we can live together."

With files from the Canadian Press Top Stories

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