Calgary man arrested for chanting 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free'

The slogan has been widely interpreted as calling for the elimination of the state of Israel.

Calgary man arrested for chanting 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free'
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Duelling pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protests took place outside Calgary City Hall this past weekend on November 5. Wesam Cooley, 32, a Calgary resident, was charged following the rallies with causing disturbance, with a hate motivation added to the charge.

Calgary Police Service’s Diversity Resource Team and Public Safety Unit met with organizers from both demonstrations to ensure safety between the two prior to the beginning of their rallies.  They warned members regarding the use of controversial language and signage.

Cooley, despite being informed of the officer’s remarks, acknowledged while speaking to the crowd with a speaker phone. He then called for the elimination of the state of Israel and encouraged the demonstrators present to chant along. 

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" is a chant used at pro-Palestine rallies across the world. By referencing a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, the slogan effectively calls for the erasure of the state of Israel. Many see the chant as antisemitic and hateful.

Cooley has a court date scheduled for December 12. Calgary police noted on the arrest’s news release that “Hate speech, as defined in the criminal code, is complex and several contextual factors must be considered before changes can be laid.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib was officially censured by the House of Representatives for her use of the same slogan. The censure resolution called the phrase “a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel." Tlaib has argued it is “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.”

A similar incident took place last month in Ontario, when former MPP Sarah Jama was removed from the New Democratic Party caucus over her comments the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jana's original statements on the outbreak of the war focused on “the generations long occupation of Palestine” without mentioning the surprise terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7 which killed 1,400 Israelis.

There has been a rise of antisemitic incidents and attacks across Canada since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas on October 7. On November 7, there was an attempted firebombing at a Montreal synagogue, Beth Tikvah.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has posted on X expressing his support of citizens’ rights to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely. Trudeau famously invoked the Emergencies Act to squash the peaceful protesters of the 2022 Freedom Convoy, in which they occupied Ottawa to put an end to tyrannical COVID restrictions.

On November 5, Paul Kessler, an elderly Jewish-American man was allegedly assaulted by a pro-Palestinian protester at a rally while holding an Israeli flag. Kessler fell to the ground and later died from his injuries the following day. Police are investigating the incident as a homicide.

If you agree that non-citizens and those on visas here in Canada should respect the law and not support terrorist organizations, please sign our petition at

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