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‘It’s not okay in our city’: Calgary police set up task force following violent clash in NE

Business owners were left shaken following Calgary’s ‘largest violent event’ which took place Saturday. Jillian Code reports.

Calgary Police Service (CPS) chief Mark Neufeld says the violent incident in northeast Falconridge on Saturday was “bananas” and has created a task force to arrest those involved.

In a news conference Tuesday, the chief told reporters the incident was a planned event outside intended peaceful demonstrations between Eritrean groups with different political views.

It happened at the Falonridge Plaza shopping centre by the Magnolia Banquet Hall at McKnight Boulevard and Falconridge Crescent between two groups wearing clothing with the Eritrean flag and others wearing the colours of the former Eritrean flag.

“This was a planned targeted attack made by some members of the involved communities. This is really the largest violent event to happen in our city in recent memory,” Neufeld told reporters.

Neufeld says around 150 people were involved and were seen with helmets and shields, throwing bottles and bricks and using bats and sticks as weapons. Twelve people were sent to hospital and were discharged with no life-altering injuries.

No bystanders or police were hurt.

The incident Saturday follows ongoing conflicts around the world, including in Edmonton and Toronto, where opposing Eritrean groups opposed one another on the political situation in the country.

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Neufeld says CPS is not taking sides in the matter and is only policing the behaviour.

“We’re not policing ideologies. We …don’t get on one side or the other of this. This is around behaviour for us. And so the behaviour that we see in the videos and in the reporting of this is the very same behaviour that we’ve seen in other cities. And it’s it’s not okay. And it’s not okay in our city,” Neufeld said.

He says CPS spoke with community leaders beforehand and that they anticipated violence due to incidents that have been happening.

“The Calgary Police Service has very strong relationships with all of the communities, including the Eritrean community. Our members knew of the scheduled events in the area and also knew there was potential for violence,” Neufeld told reporters.

“We worked directly with the event organizers prior to the events to ensure safety for the community and to try to ease tensions between the involved groups.”

He says once violence did break out, CPS members were on the scene right away and prevented “further escalation, further injury, and further property damage.”

“We do not anticipate any further violence. However, rest assured, we will respond accordingly,” Neufeld said.

WATCH: Standoff between two Eritrean groups ends in police intervention in North Edmonton

The cost of the property damage is unclear at this time, but the police chief says the properties belonged to individuals who were not actively engaged in the violence and that CPS is currently in contact with the victims to assess the full extent of the damage.

“There were individuals who owned cars that were parked in the area. And there were local businesses, small businesses that had very … not very well positioned to absorb losses like this over something so stupid,” Neufeld said.

“As police, our main goal is to keep Calgary safe and to hold those who commit criminal acts accountable. And we will do that.”

Neufeld says the communities are not violent and are cooperating with the police on the matter.

“I don’t think it’s anything anybody wanted to see happen. I think it’s something that has boiled over,” he said.

“Moving forward, we’ll provide whatever help we can. I’m sure other leaders in the community will provide help and support where we can, but at the end of the day, there’s no justification for the behaviour we saw. That was bananas.”

Neufeld says arrests following the incident won’t happen right away.

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Last month, clashes at an Eritrean festival at an Edmonton park sent one person to the hospital and triggered the deployment of the police force’s riot squad.

Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia three decades ago. Since then, the small Horn of Africa nation has been led by President Isaias Afwerki, who has never held an election. Millions of residents have fled the country in order to avoid conditions such as forced military conscription.

The response from the police chief is the first one since the Saturday incident.

Police ask anyone with information about this incident, including photos, videos, social media posts, and CCTV footage, to call them at 403-266-1234 or leave a tip anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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