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Questions raised after apparent violence between Calgary police and protesters

Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal concerned over the apparent physical handling of a 13-year-old during the Nov. 19 protest.

Calgary city councillor Raj Dhaliwal said it was disturbing to see videos circulating that appear to show physical confrontations between Calgary police and weekend protesters.

Dueling protests drew thousands into Calgary’s downtown on Nov. 19 in ongoing demonstrations related to the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas.

The police acknowledged that there were several questions by community members raised following charges announced after the protest.

According to the Calgary police, four people were charged in connection with those protests. They said that after the main peaceful protest, a group of 100 people separated from the main group and attempted to block a major road. Police said it created a “dangerous situation between motorists and demonstrators.”

“Several individuals within this group were not compliant with police and despite attempted negotiations, continued to impede traffic and escalate their behaviour, with some attempting to push through a line of police officers,” the police said in a release to media.

Videos of these physical encounters with police were recorded and posted to social media after the protest. Some of the videos show a teen being physically handled by police, others show a woman in a physical altercation with police, and having her hijab displaced.

Coun. Raj Dhaliwal, who serves Ward 5, said that he’s viewed the videos that are circulating. He said he wasn’t aware of all of the details surrounding the events, but even what Dhaliwal had seen in the videos was disturbing.

“You have a 13-year-old kid, I’ve been told, and as you can see in the video, has been grabbed by two professionally-trained officers and put down on the ground and apparently punched,” he said.

“You have a pregnant woman whose hijab… is being basically taken off her head. And it’s a pregnant moment that’s not acceptable to me.”

Protest can’t be broken down in video clips: CPS

Calgary police said that Mervat Hamdanie, 27, was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Police said that during her arrest, her hijab became displaced. They also said that officers immediately allowed it to be rectified.

Police said that as arrests were being made, a youth was also taken into custody for his role in trying to break through the police line. After the youth’s arrest, police said his parents were allowed behind police lines to de-escalate the situation. He was released without charges.

“Despite four individuals being charged, there were hundreds of other demonstrators who showed up yesterday in a safe, lawful and peaceful manner,” said Supt. Joe Brar of the CPS Operational Support Division.

“Managing a crowd of this size for a prolonged period is extremely dynamic and cannot be reduced to short video clips that you might see on social media.”

Dhaliwal was leery of the police response that the woman’s hijab was “displaced.”

“What a joke. Why from the get-go did it get displaced?” Dhaliwal asked.

“It’s like punching someone in the face and sort of saying sorry, I didn’t mean it, it happened by accident.”

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she’d heard what had happened and said she was getting updates from the police commission.

“Obviously I look forward to understanding what happened yesterday, what the conflict was and how it was managed,” she said.

Also facing charges stemming from the protest were Wassime Taha, 30, Wafik Kassem, 25, and Mohamed Hamdanie, 25. They all face one count of assaulting a peace officer, Calgary police said.