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Concerned UCalgary faculty, students write letter over ‘brutal action’ at protest

A group of concerned faculty, staff, students and alumni at the University of Calgary have written to the school’s administration over its response to a protest held earlier this month.

The letter, addressed to UCalgary president Ed McCauley and the school’s leadership team, expresses the group’s “tremendous disappointment and horror” over the decision to bring in Calgary police to clear a pro-Palestinian protest from campus.

“We, the undersigned faculty, staff, and UCalgary community members, see the protest as ‘a public-facing global education project,’ and the university administration’s actions as a betrayal of the values of higher education as spaces for critical thinking, academic freedom, and commitment to equity, justice and social transformation,” read the letter, which is signed by 623 members of the UCalgary community.

On May 9, protesters gathered on the campus and the school sought assistance from the Calgary Police Service in managing the peaceful demonstration.

As time progressed, police and administrators learned the demonstrators did not intend to leave the university’s property and planned to camp at the UCalgary long-term.

By 11:15 p.m., following repeated requests by police for the protesters to leave campus, officers used a variety of non-lethal means, such as rubber bullets, tear gas and flash bangs to clear the demonstration.

The letter, dated May 21, calls the police action “brutal force against young students (who were) peacefully protesting.”

It does not claim that any protesters were injured in the operation and, on May 14, Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld told CTV News that he had no formal reports have been made.

Neufeld said the school’s decision to ask for help to clear the protest was “very reasonable and prudent” given what UCalgary was seeing at other post-secondary institutions around the world.

The Alberta government has since said it would be asking the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police watch dog, to look into the police action on May 9.

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The letter goes on to ask the school to conduct its own independent investigation into the protest and its own policies regarding campus safety.

It also asks the administration to meet with protest leaders to discuss their concerns and “commit to a policy of non-violence and minimal police presence in handling peaceful demonstrations.”

In addition, it wants to see all charges against the protesters arrested at the event dropped.

CTV News has reached out to CPS for details on any charges that have been laid.

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