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McGill University calls growing pro-Palestinian encampment on campus illegal

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MONTREAL — McGill University says the camp set up by pro-Palestinian student activists on the institution’s grounds in Montreal violates both school policies and the law.

More than two dozen tents had been pitched at the school’s downtown campus as of Sunday afternoon, with a steady stream of visitors stopping by to drop off donations and supplies.

McGill said Monday morning that the number of people who have set up tents on campus has tripled since Saturday, and many of them, if not the majority, are not members of the school community.

It also said it had seen video evidence of some people using “unequivocally antisemitic language and intimidating behaviour” during the protest, but it did not provide further details.

“McGill has been steadfast in its support of the rights of our campus community to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, with the understanding that these must be exercised within the bounds of McGill’s policies as well as the law,” the school said Monday in a statement.

“We have been clear that these encampments violate both.”

The institution says its leaders are discussing next steps after lawyers representing McGill students in the encampment informed them the protesters refuse to discuss a timeline to remove the tents.

A McGill student and encampment spokesperson who didn’t want to give her full name for fear of reprisals from the school or police said on Sunday that the campers intend to remain indefinitely.

She said student activists are demanding that the school divest from Israeli companies that are “complicit in the occupation of Palestine.” They also expect the school to cut academic ties with Israeli institutions.

The encampment in Montreal follows a wave of similar protests across campuses in the United States linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

On Monday, the University of Ottawa warned its students that the use of university space is a privilege and not a right.

“While peaceful protest is permitted in appropriate public spaces on campus according to our policies and regulations, encampments and occupations will not be tolerated,” read a message signed by Éric Bercier, associate vice-president of student affairs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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