Calgary police caution pro-Palestinian demonstrators away from 17 Avenue park
Posted Dec 10, 2023 11:14:24 AM.
Last Updated Dec 10, 2023 11:22:14 AM.
Calgary’s police chief is strongly advising pro-Palestinian demonstrators not to march and rally on 17 Avenue W at Tomkins Park, saying it is not a suitable site given the potential size of the crowd and disruption to the area.
Chief Mark Neufeld says in an open letter shared to X that officers continue working with Justice for Palestinians (JFP) organizers to negotiate the planned demonstration at 1 p.m., as he believes there will be negative impacts upon the “broader community.”
“For a variety of reasons, including concerns regarding crowd size and potential disruption to local businesses, shoppers, and residents, we have clearly communicated that this is not a suitable location,” his letter reads.
“We have also continued to state that we are willing to work with community groups to facilitate safe, lawful demonstrations in locations such as the Municipal and Olympic Plaza, that can accommodate them, taking into consideration the potential for adverse impacts on other Calgarians.”
He also says there has been a “decrease in cooperation from some of the participants at pro-Palestinian rallies.”
“In one instance, this group engaged in intentionally disruptive behaviour, including blocking roadways and thoroughfares,” his letter reads.
Calgary police officers made five arrests on Nov. 19 after 100 people broke away from the main march that started at the Municipal Building, but videos circulated online of the incident led to questions on the handling of the situation by police.
The group also alleges a man and woman were attacked by a pair near the Arts Commons on Stephen Avenue on Dec. 3, with the two proceeding to “shout racist slurs while tearing the man’s Palestinian flag.”
Neufeld says the rally is going ahead as planned, so states, “Individuals who choose to engage in rallies at Tomkins Park should be prepared to adhere to all applicable laws and to avoid impeding traffic or obstructing critical infrastructure.”
He references the past protests in Calgary and findings from the review on the ‘Freedom Protests’ in Ottawa as lessons to evolve their “approach to managing large gatherings.”
“We heard clearly that protest activity can have unacceptable impacts on our local communities – including businesses, residents, and visitors. While we continue to work toward a better solution, we are seeking the assistance of community leaders,” Neufeld said.
Demonstrators at the JFP event have continued to call for a cease-fire in Gaza, where the Hamas-operated health authority says over 17,000 people, 70 per cent of them women and children, have been killed by bombardments by Israel. The retaliation is for a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that left 1,200 people dead and 240 captured, with 100 being released during a weeklong cease-fire in late November.
At this time, about 90 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced within the besieged territory.
JFP is also calling for politicians, including those in Calgary, to back a cease-fire.
Meanwhile, the group says on its event page that the rally is co-hosted with Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Voice of Oppressed and Calgary Students for Palestine.
The group of demonstrators have regularly met at the Municipal Building every Sunday for the last two months, with sizes ranging from a few hundred people to 2,000.
In addition, several hundred pro-Israel demonstrators have regularly faced them across the street at Olympic Plaza.
CityNews has reached out to JFP for further comment.
-With files from The Associated Press