EDMONTON, CANADA - Police physically forced back more than 100 members of Edmonton's Ethiopian community Saturday during a heated protest against the Ethiopian government in the city's west end.
As many as a dozen officers blocked protesters at the entrance to the Belmead Community Centre where representatives from the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia were meeting. Police in riot gear were also at the demonstration.
Edmonton Police Service spokeswoman Patrycia Thenu said it began when police from west division were called to the protest at 3 p.m. but more officers were called from all divisions at 3:30 as the protest grew in size.
"Things quickly escalated here as protesters tried to get inside the meeting," said Thenu.
The protest was organized to prevent the Ethiopian government from raising funds for their $4.7-billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, under construction on the Blue Nile River near its border with Sudan, said Ogadenian Aden Mohamed.
"But that's not the reality, the reality is very different," he said.
"We were chased away from Ethiopia by this group who came to Canada today, and what they want is money that they're going to use for a military purpose to kill our people and genocide our community."
Mohamed said protesters were not armed, and were peaceful. Protesters briefly clashed with police at the community centre doors when someone inside the meeting gave protesters the middle finger, protesters claimed.
Police protected an Edmonton Transit bus behind the building that was being used to escort Ethiopian government officials and supporters away from the protest.
As the bus pulled away around 6 p.m., the protesters shouted with jubilation and were soon singing and dancing in the community center parking lot.
"This was a successful protest," smiled Mohamed. "You can see from how they left through the back that it was shame and embarrassment for them. If they were people who were clean and transparent, they would come and talk to people... They are cuckoos and they'll go anywhere. If they have in mind to come back, we are ready for them."