Over 1,000 protesters angered by Israeli strikes and ground invasion of Gaza gathered outside city hall on Friday, July 18, doubling the turnout of a similar protest one week earlier.
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) — 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 of Gaza.
Speakers included SPHR president Ala’a Hamdan, U of C professor Arthur Clarke and Liberal MLA for Calgary-Skyview Garshan Kang.
“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.”
According to the New York Times, 687 Palestinians have died since Israeli raids and air strikes — known as Operation Protective Edge — began on July 8. They estimate that as of July 23, 74 per cent of deaths have been civilians. Thirty-five Israeli soldiers have been killed since ground operations began last Thursday. Over 4,000 Palestinians have been injured.
The United Nations Human Rights Council will soon begin investigating Operation Protective Edge, claiming Israel may be violating international law.
A fight broke out when protesters confronted a counter-protest of people holding an Israeli flag at around 6:15 p.m.
Etai Lahav — a member of the Israeli Defence Force — said he was on leave in Canada the week of the protest. Lahav said he and his friends were cursed and spit 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 up the fight.
“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. No serious injuries were reported and no arrests were made.
After police blocked off Macleod, protestors spilled onto the street shouting, “We want justice, we want peace,” and “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry; Palestine will never die.”
Another protest will be held Friday, July 25 at city hall. A Facebook group called Pro Israel Counter protest called on supporters of Israel to attend the protest. The group has 150 members so far.