It was business as usual at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School on Wednesday after anti-immigration protesters waved placards outside the school on Tuesday morning.
The demonstration was held after allegations were made that Syrian students involved in a school fight last week were not punished to the same extent by school administration.
Some students stood up against the protesters, but even before the demonstration was finished, Syrian and Canadian students were playing soccer together.
Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with Red Deer Public Schools, said they were playing soccer again when he returned to the school at 3:30 p.m.
Red Deer RCMP Const. Derek Turner said students were kicking the soccer ball around Wednesday morning too.
“I think there is a good group of kids here that believe in each other and what Thurber stands for, a welcoming community and welcoming school,” Turner said.
On Tuesday, Turner and his partner, who were among the officers on site for the protest, joined in the game.
“We each took a net and a goal tending position. Then more people joined in, more immigrants and more Canadian kids, some adults from the school. And then a bunch of people were sitting around just watching.”
On her Facebook page, Premier Rachel Notley recognized the officers, soccer players and students for their sense of community and resolve.
Turner said the fight at the school was a one-off situation that seemed to stem from miscommunication the evening before at a city skate park.
“It just kind of got out of hand and tempers grew, and it was a school fight that happened to involve school cultures.”
He said initially it was dealt with at the school level. As a school liaison officer, he was called in because a student from another school not allowed on Thurber property was involved in the fight.
Both Turner and Buruma said there have been no other such cultural incidents at the school.
‘That’s one of the beauties of Lindsay Thurber, a school that has a real diversity of ethnicities, of faith backgrounds, of culture. They’ve been running the Diversity Run to celebrate that. They were the first school in the province to have a gay/straight alliance. They’re moving on,” Buruma said.
Frank Bauer, executive director of Central Alberta Refugee Effort, said some of the reactions on social media to the allegations about the fight and immigrants were almost scary.
He said now is a good opportunity to expand cultural awareness within the community and bring people together to learn about each other.
“The challenge is always how to reach out to the entire community with openness. I’m not sure how but more community conversations are needed,” Bauer said.
Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council is offering support to parents and students who feel traumatized by the recent events.
“Whenever hatred or a negative incident might occur, we need to work together to resolve them. Such is the Albertan way and AMPAC will be there to help in any way we can,” said AMPAC president Faisal Khan Suri in a press release.