April 14, 2018 3:36 pm

Heavy police presence at Calgary City Hall for dueling downtown protests

There was a large police presence at Calgary's Municipal Building due to competing rallies.

Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

Dozens of police officers were at Calgary’s Municipal Building on Saturday as several opposing groups organized rallies.

Ten marked police vehicles were lined up along Macleod Trail for hours while officers stood between the two groups, preventing them from coming in contact with each other. Over 200 people were gathered there around noon.

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A local street church spokesman said he had organized a “free speech rally” four months ago at City Hall. Pastor Artur Pawlowski said his group wasn’t looking for trouble and is concerned that other groups came to city hall to counter-protest.

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“Every time a Canadian, white male wants to stand up and speak and express himself, he’s facing all those organizations. I believe in a democratic country. Let’s agree to disagree. I’m not hunting them down. They have freedom of speech, but I want my freedom of speech as well,” Pawlowski said.

The counter-protest was organized in part by Calgary Anti-Fascist Action. Organizers say they chose to come to the rally to draw attention to what they call messages of hate.

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“This is organized because a number of groups that are spreading a hateful message, predominately an anti-Islam and homophobic message, have been gathering and they’re doing that under the guise of so-called freedom of speech and patriotism. The truth be told really it’s about hate,” said Jason Devine, of Calgary Anti-Fascist Action.

There were no reports of any violence between the two groups. Pawlowski said he was thankful for the large police presence downtown.

“They are doing an excellent job and they are keeping peace,” Pawlowski said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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