Young offender sentenced for violence at Calgary rally

Protesters at the July 18 rally in Calgary. THOMAS MOORE PHOTO

A young offender received a sentence of 12 months probation and 30 hours of community service for an assault on a Israel supporter at a rally for Gaza last summer.

The youth, who was 16 at the time of the assault and cannot be named, was sentenced in Calgary youth court Monday.

 Last July, during the Israeli offensive in Gaza, hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters gathered outside Calgary City Hall. When about 15 pro-Israel counter-protesters arrived, they had an Israeli flag ripped from them and were attacked, said David Busheikin, a lawyer who was observing the rally and Monday’s sentencing for the Calgary Jewish Federation’s community relations committee. 

 “It was a swarming…You could see a crowd of people moving in unison toward them. There was a collective sound from the crowd,” he said. 

The woman who was attacked, Samantha Hamilton, was punched by the young offender and had her hair pulled and was kicked by other individuals, Busheikin said. “It was totally unprovoked,” he said. “She didn’t instigate any violence at all.”

The assailant was also required to write a letter of apology to Hamilton.

A victim impact statement Hamilton submitted to court stated, “I never felt fear like the fear I experienced that day,” according to a report in the Calgary Herald.

At the sentencing, Judge Richard O’Gorman, the Crown attorney and even the defence lawyer acknowledged the assault “violated basic Canadian freedoms,” Busheikin said. 

“Both the judge and the crown prosecutor did mention the right to freedom of expression is a Canadian value,” Busheikin said. “I don’t believe it was swept under the rug at all.”

Several other people, all of whom were non-Jewish supporters of Israel, were also injured during the July rally.

 Three adults, all part of the pro-Palestinian group, were charged with assault and the community will be watching the court proceedings closely. 

“My personal feeling is the court case against the adults will be more of an indication of how seriously the courts and the justice system look at this incident beyond the immediate impact on the victims,” said Judy Shapiro, associate executive director of the Calgary Jewish Federation, who was also an observer at the rally.

 “It impacted the Jewish community as a whole, it impacted all Canadians who value respectful dialogue and freedom of expression and assembly.”

The three adults return to court Feb. 9.