Hundreds in Calgary join convoy in solidarity with Palestinians
'It's really important that we stand here and we educate the world about what's going on'
Honks and shouts of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" echoed through the streets of Calgary on Sunday, as a convoy of demonstrators demanded an end to Israeli air strikes over the Gaza Strip.
The rally started near the Calgary Zoo at 5:30 p.m., with hundreds of cars disrupting traffic along 17th Avenue and downtown and delaying CTrain service.
Maha Al-ghoul, one of the rally's organizers, said the international community needs to be made aware of the escalating violence.
"It's really important that we stand here and we educate the world about what's going on. Because as far as the average Canadian person … they need to know what's going on because as Canadians we are peace-loving people — this is against what we believe in," she said.
Over the past five days, at least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza — including 55 children, 33 women and more than 1,200 people wounded. There were eight killed on the Israeli side, all but one of them civilians, including a five-year-old child.
Some 34,000 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, the United Nations said.
Despite a heavy death toll and international efforts to broker a ceasefire, Israel's prime minister has said the country intends to "levy a heavy price" against Hamas.
The latest outbreak of violence began in East Jerusalem last month, when Palestinian protests and clashes with police broke out in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Israeli settlers. Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on impoverished Gaza, which is home to more than two million Palestinians.
Al-ghoul said she sent videos of earlier pro-Palestinian rallies in Calgary this week to her cousin back home — moving her relative to tears to learn of the support.
"When you are oppressed, when you feel you are all alone, when you feel nobody hears your scream and your plight and then you know that the whole world is standing up for you … that gives you the will to resist, and to keep fighting, and to keep surviving," she said.
The demonstration was set to end near city hall with a march — participants were asked to wear masks and physically distance. Outdoor gatherings in Alberta are currently limited to five attendees.
Calgary police have previously said that law enforcement recognizes the right to protest, but everyone must comply with public health orders to ensure everyone's safety. Alberta Health Services said in a statement Sunday that people are encouraged to follow public health orders to minimize spread.
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Earlier in the day, Yasmin Kaddoura and her husband Ali had organized an event outside the Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre, painting cars with Palestinian flags with proceeds going toward supporting those in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
Kaddoura's husband and his family are Palestinian — she said some of his relatives back home have been shot and wounded in the violence.
She said as of around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, they had painted at least 200 cars with about two more hours of painting to go.
"It's amazing to see the community come together, it doesn't matter whether you're Muslim or non-Muslim, it doesn't matter whether you're Palestinian or not Palestinian, we've painted people's cars from all nationalities," Kaddoura said.
Today, I joined YYC Convoy For Palestine calling for an end to evictions and violence in Gaza. It’s a step backwards and away from any peace process and conflict resolution. The UN and international community must step up to preserve human rights and peace in the region. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AbLeg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AbLeg</a> <a href="https://t.co/IfSchfZXrf">pic.twitter.com/IfSchfZXrf</a>—@MLAIrfanSabir
The Canadian government has called for an "immediate de-escalation of tensions and an end to the violence." Al-ghoul said she hopes Canada acts in accordance with its stated commitment to supporting a two-state solution.
Calgary-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir wrote on social media that he joined Sunday's convoy, and called for the international community to "preserve human rights and peace in the region."
The Calgary Jewish Federation said in a post to social media that it stands in solidarity in support of Israel.
"We collectively wish for more peaceful times ahead," the organization wrote.
With files from the Associated Press and Reuters