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Falconridge clash between Eritrean factions the largest Calgary incident in recent memory, said Chief Neufeld

12 people were injured and taken to hospital and there were multiple reports of property damage, Chief Neufeld said.

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said they knew in advance that a violent confrontation was possible with two scheduled cultural events in Calgary’s northeast over the weekend.

Chief Neufeld provided an update Tuesday evening on the violent confrontation between rival Eritrean groups that happened outside the Magnolia Hall in the northeast Calgary community of Falconridge on Sept. 2.

According to initial police reports, more than 150 people took part in the violence. The violence coincided with the 30th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia. Other violence has been seen around the world and across Canada in Edmonton and Toronto.

Chief Neufeld said the two planned cultural events were peaceful in nature and the attendees aren’t to be blamed for the violence that happened. Most people had no intention of bothering others and didn’t want to be bothered themselves. According to Neufeld, 12 people ended up in hospital and there were multiple reports of property damage in Falconridge.

“I want to be very clear, the clash was not a protest,” he said.

“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.”

Those responsible would be held accountable, Chief Neufeld said. They’re asking attendees, witnesses and the media to submit photos, videos and other information to police to help them put together what happened. He said it could take some time to finish the investigation.

Chief Neufeld said they’d reached out to both sides prior to the conflict to ease tensions. This event was a small group of people on either side who wanted a conflict to happen, he said.

“Once violence did break out, we were on scene very quickly and able to separate the combatants and quickly restore public order,” he said.

Mayor Gondek thankful for the prompt Calgary police response

Over the weekend, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she was impressed by the response of Calgary police to the violence.

“Their mandate was to make sure that any violence was mitigated,” the mayor said.

“They tried to keep the two sides apart so that the community wouldn’t be witnessing this type of violence.”

The mayor said this was rooted in Eritrea politics that were playing out in Calgary. It’s not indicative of anything related to Canadian immigration or having newcomers in Calgary, she said.

Chief Neufeld said that the first responding officers weren’t equipped with shields or helmets.

“It was very dangerous,” he said.

“Individuals who were participating in the conflict had helmets and shields and so obviously were prepared for the conflict. There were rocks and bottles and other projectiles flying around.”

The fact attendees had sticks, gloves, hockey helmets, bricks and other weapons suggests there was premeditation to the event, Neufeld said.

Still, there were victims and Chief Neufeld said he recognized that there’s fear in the community. The majority of property damage done was to cars and businesses that had nothing to do with the conflict – businesses he said could ill afford to absorb losses like these.

“We recognize the frustration and the fear that this brings to nearby communities and we share that frustration,” Neufeld said.

Chief Neufeld said they’d continue to work with victims to assess the full extent of the damage.

Sit down with community leaders: Dhaliwal

Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal said that there are two sides to this Eritrea conflict and both have their own story–and both claim to be right.

“We need to sit down with the community leaders and listen to them but at the same time, be very assertive,” he said.

“We need to come together and debate our ideas, discuss our division, and we are here to help. But taking the law into your own hands and going out and doing this kind of – whatever you want to call it, shenanigans – It’s not acceptable.”

Dhaliwal suggested they may even need to work with local community centres renting out space to ensure there’s some sort of coordination to avoid potential conflicts.

Chief Neufeld said their diversity resource unit would also be involved in working with the communities. He added that they’re keeping an open dialogue with the sides to both try to help ease tensions and to further their investigative efforts.

The issues are complex, Chief Neufeld said. There are strong feelings on both sides.

“At the end of the day, we’re not policing ideologies. We don’t get on one side or the other of this,” he said.

“This is around behaviour for us. 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 not OK. And it’s not OK in our city.

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