Educators and RCMP are trying to keep the peace at a central Alberta school after someone posted a video on social media of a fight between a small group of Syrian and Canadian students.
The scuffle outside Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School on May 16 attracted online comments accusing the immigrants of whipping students and accusing school officials of not disciplining the Syrians.
More than a dozen people showed up at the school parking lot Tuesday to protest, including an anti-Muslim group called Worldwide Coalition Against Islam and another group called Soldiers of Odin.
Principal Dan Lower said most of the protesters have no connection to the school. Mounties were on hand as a precaution and regular classes were underway.
— Murray Crawford (@MurrayGCrawford) 23 мая 2017 г.
All the students involved in the fight — four Syrians and four Canadians — have been suspended for one week, the principal said.
“From that video a post was put on Facebook and was sent around stating that the Syrians are allowed to go around whipping Canadians and that is because of their religious beliefs,” Lower said in an interview.
“That is the genesis behind this outrage. And that is simply not the case.”
He said students and parents have been told the fight has been blown out of proportion by people on social media.
One of the online posts about the fight includes the headline: VIDEO: Watch As Syrian Refugees From Red Deer Beat Up Classmates.
“So Syrian kids that go to Lindsay Thurber Composite High School in Red Deer, AB. were going around whipping and assaulting other students,” reads one comment.
“They cannot be expelled as they were acting within their religious beliefs. Phone calls home were made though. What good does that do. Their parents probably took them out for ice cream or spared them a beating at the very least.”
RCMP Const. Derek Turner said the dispute was nothing more than a typical school fight that started with a Syrian and a Canadian student getting into a verbal dispute at a skateboard park off campus.
Other students became involved over a number of days. That resulted in two fights, one of which was captured on the video posted online.
“It just happened to turn into this other thing just because of the social media postings and the comments. That is why the protest and that is why the presence there for us (Tuesday),” Turner said.
RCMP are considering whether to lay municipal bylaw charges or to turn to restorative justice for those involved.
Students at the school are already setting a different tone.
Shortly after the protesters left the parking lot, some Syrian students began playing soccer with other students and the game slowly grew to about 25 people, including two RCMP officers.
“Parents … please see beyond a race issue and reinforce within the family the golden rule,” Heather Mills wrote in a post on Facebook.
“Please don’t incite hatred. Life is too short.”
See video here.