One man charged after weekend protests in Calgary – another regarding online threats

(Calgary) – Calgary Police have charged one man in relation to an incident that occurred in early November at a downtown Calgary protest.

On Sunday, Nov. 5, two groups of protestors gathered at Calgary City Hall to show support for Palestine and Israel amid the conflict in the Middle East.

After consultation with the Calgary Police Service Hate Crime Coordinator, a man has been charged with causing a disturbance, and hate motivation has been applied to the charge.

Ahead of the protest, the CPS Diversity Resource Team and the Public Safety Unit met with members of both groups involved in the protest to ensure the safety of the participants, the public and police officers and to discuss some of the language and signage observed at past protests.

During the protest Wesam Cooley, 32 of Calgary, took to the stage to speak to the large crowd in attendance. Through amplification and a public address system, he acknowledged this conversation with police. He then proceeded to repeatedly use an anti-Semitic phrase while encouraging the crowd to follow along.

Cooley will next appear in court Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.

“Hate speech, as defined in the Criminal Code, is complex and several contextual factors must be considered before charges can be laid,” states a CPS press release. “We work closely with the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to review any potential hate crime behaviour at the protests to determine if those thresholds have been met.”

“We thank Calgary Police Service for taking swift action against the protester who was publicly inciting hate,” stated Adam Silver, CEO Calgary Jewish Federation. “This arrest will hopefully set a precedent not only in Calgary but in other cities. There has been an alarming increase around the use of known antisemitic phrases and it is important that they are being called out as hate speech and prosecuted as such.”

In an incident earlier in the week, Calgary Police charged one man in relation to online threats made to two community organizations.

On Sunday, Oct. 29, CPS received reports of multiple online threats made via social media to two Jewish community organizations in Calgary. After investigation, it is alleged that the social media user created and sent the threats under a fraudulent name. The investigation uncovered the owner of the social media account and determined the owner’s location to be in Calgary. On Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, one man was arrested and charged.

Mohamad Ghandour, 25, of Calgary, has been charged with three counts of uttering threats. He will next appear in court Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.

Hate motivation is being investigated as a factor.

“We understand that recent events that have taken place locally in relation to international conflicts have deeply affected Calgarians’ sense of safety across their city,” says Insp. Keith Hurley of the Calgary Police Service. “We want to reassure all affected communities that we take every reported incident seriously, and we remain committed to keeping everyone safe.”

“Any threats to individuals or communities, whether online or in person, are fully investigated by the Calgary Police Service (CPS),” says Insp. Hurley. “We understand the impact these threats have to Calgarians’ sense of safety in their city and will work diligently to hold people accountable for their actions.

“We maintain that the CPS polices behaviours and not beliefs. We will not tolerate criminal behaviour and are working closely with our community partners to ensure they have our support as we work together to keep Calgary safe.”

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