By Chris Adams, July 31, 2014 —
Protesters outraged over Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip gathered at city hall on Friday, July 25, for the third week in a row. Organizers estimated that over 1,000 people attended the rally, matching last week’s numbers.
Friday’s protest was the third organized by University of Calgary organization Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and Calgary based group Justice for Palestinians (JFP).
SPHR president Ala’a Hamdan said this week’s rally was different from previous protests.
“It was quite different from last week in the sense that that was a rally instead of a protest. [This week] was also a peace and anti-racism rally,” Hamdan said.
During speeches made by local activists, protesters traded slogans across Macleod Trail with a counter-protest on the other side of the street. At one point, both sides were chanting “free Gaza” at one another.
Police contained protesters on both sides of the street. There were no reports of violence.
A fight broke out between supporters of Israel and Palestine at last week’s protest. No injuries were reported and no arrests were made.
Around 75 Israel supporters gathered across the street from city hall. U of C student Caitlyn Madlener said she was there in solidarity with counter-protesters who were involved in last week’s fight.
“I was here last week and I witnessed something I wasn’t too happy about or proud of. In this country, I don’t believe something like that should happen,” Madlener said.
Most counter-protesters left at 7:20 p.m. Police escorted them down Macleod trail. They were followed by a small group of protesters, but police and organizers moved people back towards city hall.
The Palestinian death toll climbed over 1,000 on Saturday, the nineteenth day of fighting. Eighteen Palestinians were killed in Thursday’s bombing of a UN facility in Gaza. The building housed Gazans displaced by the fighting.
The United Nations estimates that at least 73 per cent of those killed were civilians.
Forty-three Israelis have been killed since fighting began, including 40 soldiers and three civilians.
Organizers hosted a minute-long “die-in” at 7:30. Protesters laid on the ground and feigned death as a reminder of the lives lost in Gaza.
“The amount of people dead in Gaza is about 1,000 people. We had a very good visual representation of what it looks like,” Hamdan said.
Similar actions in cities across the world have been organized since Operation Protective Edge began. New York City saw over 1,000 pro-Palestinian protesters march through Manhattan in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
Over 15,000 West Bank protesters angry over the number of civilian deaths in Gaza marched towards Jerusalem. Two people were killed and around 200 were injured during the protest when Israeli Defence Force soldiers fired on the protesters.
Many world leaders have called on Israel and Hamas to accept a ceasefire, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We believe that seven days will give all the parties the opportunity to step back,” Kerry said at a news conference in Cairo. “We don’t yet have that final framework, but I will tell you this: none of us here are stopping.”
Israel and Hamas negotiated a 12-hour ceasefire on Friday. During the ceasefire, Israeli soldiers continued to locate and destroy tunnels linking Gaza and Israel. Hamas has since rejected the continuation of the ceasefire by firing rockets into Israel.
The protest concluded shortly after 8 p.m. Depending on how the situation in Gaza develops, Hamdan said another protest or vigil may take place next Friday.