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Man charged after allegedly using anti-Semitic language at weekend protest

Calgary police say the demonstration between supporters of Israel and Gaza on Nov. 5, 2023, was largely peaceful, except for one person who was arrested and charged with causing a disturbance. Calgary police say the demonstration between supporters of Israel and Gaza on Nov. 5, 2023, was largely peaceful, except for one person who was arrested and charged with causing a disturbance.
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A Calgary man has been charged after allegedly using anti-Semitic language at a downtown protest over the weekend.

Two groups of protesters gathered at city hall on Sunday, around 2 p.m., to show support for Israel and Gaza in their ongoing conflict.

Before the protest, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) diversity resource team and public safety unit met with both groups to discuss safety and some of the language and signage that had been seen at previous protests.

During the protest, police said a man took to the stage and, over the public address system, acknowledged the conversation with police and then proceeded to repeatedly use an anti-Semitic phrase, while encouraging the crowd to do the same.

Police did not say exactly what was said.

After consultation with the CPS hate crime coordinator, Wesam Cooley, 32, of Calgary, has been charged with causing a disturbance. A hate motivation has been applied to the charge.

Cooley is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 12.

In a statement Tuesday, the group Justice for Palestinians claimed police charged Cooley for saying, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a phrase it said has been a Palestinian call for liberation for decades.

The group also accused police of trying to silence Palestinian voices.

The chant is heard at marches around the world, but some consider it anti-Semitic because it calls for a Palestinian State from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which includes Israeli territory.

“Hate speech, as defined in the Criminal Code, is complex and several contextual factors must be considered before charges can be laid,” CPS said in a news release.

“We work closely with the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to review any potential hate crime behaviour at the protests to determine if those thresholds have been met.”

Police said more than 1,000 people attended the event and other than this incident, it was a peaceful protest.

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