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Competing protests over Israel-Palestine conflict fail to realize violence fears in Calgary

Pro-Palestinian rally in Calgary.  June 23, 2017.
Pro-Palestinian rally in Calgary. June 23, 2017. Global News

Fears of possible violence were not realized as rallies by groups on both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate went off without incident in Calgary on Friday night.

A protest and counter-protest marked the first of several rallies to be held over the weekend, amid concern that gatherings could turn violent.

A rally of pro-Palestinian supporters was just starting up at city hall plaza on Friday when supporters of the Jewish Defence League arrived at the opposite end.

Police quickly took strategic positions to keep both sides far apart.

Calgary police at a pro-Palestinian rally downtown
Calgary police at a pro-Palestinian rally downtown.

Both sides in the debate wanted to send a message.

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The pro-Palestinian group held their event on the anniversary of a day Jews consider offensive and anti-Israel

“Al Quds day is famously a creation of the Iranian Ayatollah, in 1979. There’s nothing pro-Palestinian about it,” said Don Sharpe, president of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) in Alberta.

“I stand for Israel, and I stand for Jewish people, and I stand for the rights of every Canadian to be able to speak their mind,” said Sabrina Paradis who carried sign that read, “Stop Jewaphobia.”

Jewish Defence League supporters at Calgary city hall
Jewish Defence League supporters at Calgary city hall. Global News

The pro-Palestinian group insisted their rally was meant to be peaceful. And they gave the Calgary police credit for helping to make that happen.

“Calgary Police Service did a wonderful job by keeping the other group, JDL group, apart from our group. And everything went peaceful,” said event organizer Riyaz Khawaja.

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“What we saw was true democracy. We saw two different sides expressing their opinions in a peaceful way, and that’s the way it should be,” said Wajib Jabali.

READ MORE: Calgary police assure Muslim community ‘they will be safe’ ahead of controversial protests

On Saturday, pro-Muslim groups are holding rallies at city hall.  And on Sunday, the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) is planning a march starting at Olympic Plaza downtown.

Police said they’ll devote appropriate resources to the rallies.