By Chris Adams
Over 1,000 protesters angered by Israeli strikes in Gaza gathered outside city hall on Friday, July 18, doubling the turnout of a similar protest one week earlier.
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights — a University of Calgary club — and Justice for Palestinians organized the protest, which began at 6:00 p.m. Organizers sent out the invitation on Wednesday, the day before Israel began its ground invasion.
“Now it’s just a lot of anger because the amount of dead has gone three-fold since last time we protested,” Hamdan said. “We’re here to tell our government that they should be calling for a ceasefire which they aren’t doing.”
Speakers included SPHR president Ala’a Hamdan, U of C professor Arthur Clarke and Liberal MLA for Calgary-Skyview and federal Liberal Party candidate Garshan Kang.
Over 300 Palestinians have died since Israeli raids and air strikes — known as Operation Protective Edge — began on July 8. The United Nations estimates that as of 3:00 p.m. July 18, 72 per cent of deaths have been civilians. According to the Israeli government, one Israeli soldier has been killed by friendly fire and one civilian has died from Hamas rocket fire.
Over 2,000 Palestinians have been injured.
A fight broke out when protesters confronted a counter-protest of people wielding the Israeli flag at around 6:15 p.m.
Etai Lahav — a member of the Israeli Defence Force — said he is on leave in Canada for the next week. He said he and his friends were spit and cursed at before the fight began.
“Just showing them that we’re not going to stand down. We’re going to continue fighting. They’re bombing us like crazy,” Lahav said. “We’re just here standing up for our country in a different country.”
The violence ended quickly as protesters — including former SPHR president Wesan Cooley — jumped in to break it up.
“People are angry over this. I think it’s justified anger. It’s the worst way to express it, but people are very angry over this,” Cooley said.
Hamdan said organizers told the Calgary Police Service about the protest, but police did not arrive until 15 minutes after the fight was broken up.
Following the fight, police blocked off Macleod trail in front of city hall at 6:30 p.m. No serious injuries were reported and no arrests were made.
After police blocked off Macleod trail, protestors spilled onto the street shouting, “We want justice, we want peace,” and “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry; Palestine will never die.”
Protesters left city hall at around 8:00 p.m. Hamdan said that the protests may continue into next week.
“It’s something that we’ve thought about, not something that we’ve finalized. There could be a ceasefire tomorrow or there could be a ceasefire in a year. We never really know,” Hamdan said. “If the situation does continue, definitely, we’ll be here.”