While a pro-pipeline and anti-carbon tax rally raged nearby, a smaller protest took place near Calgary City Hall about a large demonstration that’s been taking place since the end of March in the occupied Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip.
The Great Return March has drawn thousands of Palestinians to the armistice line, or border, between Gaza and Israel.
Even though the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, the Israeli military has cracked down with deadly force. At latest count, at least 34 are dead with thousands more injured by live ammunition.
Among the dead is journalist Yaser Murtaja, who was shot in the stomach on April 6th while holding a camera and wearing a clearly visible press jacket while covering the demonstrations.
Housam Kabalan made specific note of the targeting of journalists as he attended the rally.
“Journalists have actually always been targeted by the Israeli army,” said Kabalan. “One of my best friends, he’s a journalist, he travels around and does stories — and the Israeli army targeted him on three different occasions in Gaza Strip.”
Maha Alghoul is a Palestinian, and knows all too well what life is like in Gaza where many of her family and friends still live.
“In 2014, I lost ten of them in the bombing and attack that happened,” said Alghoul. “Death in Gaza is an everyday thing. My cousin who lives there has seven children, and she tells me that she teaches them that every day they leave the house, you could die. Every day you sleep, you may not wake up.”
There’s very little evidence of protestors using weapons or attacking the barbed wire fence, with people either waving flags, praying or at worst throwing stones and burning tires.
But sadly, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise to those at the rally.
“Just something Israel has done multiple times throughout history. And we just feel like there needs to be a change for sure,” said Brandon Badiuk.
“I’m not shocked,” added Alghoul. “I’m from Palestine, but this is not the first time the Israeli army does that.”
But most blame is being placed on Palestinians, who continue to be labelled as terrorists, while all they want is to return to their ancestral land which was forcibly taken away during the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, known to them as the ‘Nakba’, or ‘catastrophe’.
There’s also no mention from most international governments, including Canada. All these demonstrators want is for politicians to do something.
“I would like to see them enforce some U.N. resolutions, U.N. Resolution 194 that states Israel has to let the refugees return back to their land. They said they would do this, and they’ve never done it.”
Another problem faced by anyone who speaks out about the occupation is they get criticized for being anti-Semitic, or hating Israel. Miriam Mier is Jewish, and has been called a self-hating Jew.
“I’m told that all the time!” Proclaimed Meir.
There’s also more than enough video evidence showing the deaths of civilians at the Great Return March. This includes a teenaged boy being shot in the back of the head while carrying a tire and running away from the armistice line, and video from an Israeli group where you can hear soldiers cheering after shooting a protestor.