The area in front of the Calgary Municipal Building was filled with protesters and police as members of the “Worldwide Coalition Against Islam” (WCAI) showed up for a rally Sunday afternoon.
Clashes between the anti-Islam group and the “Calgary Anti-Fascist Action” group happened within minutes of the two groups encountering each other, but police quickly formed a line of over 30 officers to keep the protesters separated.
“I’m happy there are more of us than them. I think it shows there’s more Calgarians and people in Alberta that hate racism than espouse racist ideas,” Jason Devine, with the Calgary Anti-Fascist Action group, said.
The Calgary Founder of WCAI spoke to members of his group while the police kept other demonstrators at bay.
“They falsely label us racist but we are only against an ideology, not a race,” Joey Deluca said.
Deluca told the crowd he’s speaking up for Canadians who are concerned about the country’s immigration policies.
“We have to vet people better. We don’t want to end up like Europe or worse,” Deluca said.
Most of the push-back came from members of the Anti-Fascist group. There were very few visible minorities there, which Syrian-Canadian Sam Nammoura says is understandable.
“I am disappointed but also I do understand the fear they live with,” Nammoura said.
Nammoura said he does support the WCAI’s right to free speech.
“That’s OK. It’s better to hear it and better to debate and talk about it. We don’t want it to be in the dark. That’s why I am here,” Nammoura said.
The downtown commotion wasn’t altogether surprising to Calgarians who have been keeping an eye on U.S. politics.
“I’ve been watching what’s happening in the United States, which I think is overflowing into Canada. And I think it’s just brought the bar so low that we all need to do something,” Lee Anderson, who came to observe the rally, said.
Among those who marched with the WCAI was Karen Draper, who has attended carbon tax protests in the past. On Sunday, she was supporting U.S. president Donald Trump’s immigration policies, expressing concern about the threat of terrorism.
“Our communities are at risk,” Draper said. “I’m sorry that some people are feeling very sensitive about talking about this controversial topic but we are going to be talking about it all summer long.”
The Calgary Police Service said there were no arrests.
WCAI was denied a permit for an event that was planned for Saturday at Olympic Plaza. Instead, the group chose to march around the Municipal Building Sunday.