Police have charged a woman who they say attacked a stranger wearing a hijab, berating her with racial slurs and punching her in the face in a downtown Calgary park on Sunday.
Bridgette Serverite, 28, has been charged with assault, mischief and causing a disturbance.
At 1:30 p.m., police say two young women were walking in Prince’s Island Park when they were allegedly approached by Serverite.
Police say the women attempted to walk away, but Serverite followed them, lobbing racial slurs, before pushing one of the women and tearing her hijab.
Then, police say Serverite punched the woman in the face and kicked her in the stomach.
Two men, who police say are believed to have been with Serverite, intervened, and the two young women left the area and called 911. Police used HAWCS to track down the suspect and arrest her.
Police are hoping to speak with a Good Samaritan who witnessed the incident and stayed with the women until officers arrived, as well as anyone else who may have witnessed the incident or captured it on video.
There have been multiple similar attacks against Muslim women in Edmonton in recent months.
Police say attack isn’t connected to anti-mask protests
The incident took place near the location of two weekend protests against public health restrictions which also erupted in violence. But police say Sunday’s attack isn’t believed to be connected to the protests.
Hundreds gathered at Prince’s Island Park this weekend to protest public health restrictions like mask mandates. Some protesters carried signs promoting QAnon conspiracy theories or concerns about 5G cellphone towers.
Police said “offensive messages of intolerance and disrespect” were also seen at the protests.
White supremacist groups have been in attendance at multiple previous protests against public health restrictions, which have been a weekly occurrence in the city during the pandemic.
A video circulating on social media from Saturday’s event shows a man wearing a T-shirt that reads “Proud White Christian Man” punching a counter-protester in a wheelchair.
That video, and photos of officers at the rally wearing “thin blue line” patches, sparked concerns on social media around police actions over the weekend.
Police said in a release that a confrontation took place at the protest, but as “neither group was willing to cooperate with police to pursue the matter further … no charges were laid in the incident.”
Calgary Police Service also addressed that officers at the event were seen wearing the “thin blue line” patches — a controversial symbol that has been banned by some forces, with critics concerned it increases divisiveness at a time police have been under scrutiny for their use of force in policing Black, Indigenous and people of colour.
“The origin of the thin blue line logo in Canadian policing is based on the foundation that is a dedication to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice … we do, however, recognize the meaning can be interpreted differently by different people and this is something we are very aware of as we move forward as an organization,” CPS said.
Police said a hate crime investigator and members from the diversity liaison team were present at the rallies, gathering evidence to potentially address issues in future.
No public health tickets were issued at Saturday’s rally, police said.