Calgary police say a car rally in support of Palestinians on Sunday unexpectedly grew from 200 vehicles to an estimated 1,000 — and now they expect to issue around 100 tickets to participants who strayed from the planned route and caused safety and traffic concerns for hours.
The rally was held to show solidarity with Palestinians in the ongoing conflict with Israel.
It started near the Calgary Zoo at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday with hundreds of cars disrupting traffic along 17th Avenue S.W. and downtown and delaying CTrain service.
In a news release Wednesday, police said they spoke with organizers prior to the event and stressed the importance of obeying all traffic laws.
“[We] called on them to conduct themselves with public safety as a priority,” the release said.
‘Running red lights, blocking intersections’
Police said organizers initially indicated there would be around 200 vehicles participating in the rally on a predetermined route through downtown. But the event grew to an estimate 1,000 vehicles and deviated from the designated route, which led to significant traffic issues and safety concerns over a five-hour period, police said.
“Vehicles driving down the wrong side of the road, running red lights, blocking intersections for significant periods of time, drivers on their cellphones while passengers (including young children) hung from windows and sunroofs,” police said in the release.
“Stunting, firing of flares and fireworks from within vehicles or in crowds, and significant noise levels late into the evening led to several complaints from residents in the area.”
50 complaints, two arrests
Police said they received more than 50 complaints in connection to the rally.
Two arrests were made at the event, one for mischief to property and the other for an altercation
Police said their priority during the rally was not to issue tickets but to ensure the safety of all those there, including officers and attendees. They said attempting to issue tickets to all those committing offences would have resulted in escalating the situation.
Police said they were able to gather evidence using body worn cameras, car dash cams and traffic light cameras.
“The investigation is expected to lead to approximately 100 summonses being issued to the registered owners of the vehicles who participated in the offences,” said the release.
“This information is not intended to paint all those that participated in the rally with the same brush. The violation tickets are being issued based solely on the behaviours of the participants who failed to adhere to traffic laws and risked their own safety or that of others.”
Police said they vow to continue to work with protest organizers to plan safe events in the future.