Pro-Palestinian protesters set up camp on UofT campus

Several pro-Palestinian protesters breached a fenced area and camped on the University of Toronto campus early Thursday, vowing to remain there until their demands are met.

Protesters arrived around 4 a.m. and set up a few dozen tents on the lawn of King’s College Circle.

The university had erected fences to prevent a camp there, but protesters bypassed them. Several police vehicles quickly arrived at the scene, but so far there have been no confrontations.

Protesters are demanding that the university divest from companies with military ties to Israel and cut ties with some Israeli universities.

“So we’ve seen a recent wave of encampments across the United States and now in Canada,” one protester told CP24. “We were inspired by the Columbia (University) camp, which just ended two days ago. We wanted to ride this wave, now that there’s finally a lot of energy.”

Another said they want to send a message to the university.

“Our message to the University of Toronto is that we want them to divest themselves of their investments, we want them to be transparent with their finances, and we want them to cut academic ties with Israeli universities in the occupied territories,” they told CP24.

Israeli academics maintain that they are among the most fervent advocates of peace in their country and that cutting ties with its institutions would be counterproductive.

In a statement, the university said the campus remains open and protests are allowed as long as laws and regulations are not violated.

“The university respects the rights of members of our community to assemble and protest within the confines of the law and U of T policies, but they should not interfere with the ability of students, faculty, librarians and staff to learn.” , teach, research and work on our campuses, or interrupt or prevent other university activities,” the statement reads.

He added that his preference “is to start with dialogue,” but that protesters could face consequences for violating the rules.

“Those who contravene university policy or the law risk consequences set forth in various laws and policies such as the Student Code of Conduct, which could include suspension,” the statement said.

Leaflets distributed to protesters Thursday morning laid out a number of expectations for a peaceful protest, including no structures of any kind, no hate speech and no disruption to scheduled university activities.

“U of T grounds and buildings are private property. Unauthorized activities, such as camping or occupying university buildings, are considered trespassing,” the brochures read.

Pro-Palestinian camps have emerged at numerous universities in the United States, along with several in Canada, such as McGill and UBC. Some protests in the United States have led to clashes with authorities; Some protesters refused to leave until their demands were met, and some police services responded by forcibly removing them.

A Quebec judge on Wednesday rejected a request by Jewish students for an injunction to stop the encampment at McGill, citing concerns about free speech.

The campus protests are the latest incarnation of protests that have raged for months over the war between Israel and Hamas.

The war broke out after Hamas, a militant group considered a terrorist organization by the Canadian government, killed about 1,200 people and took about 240 captives in a surprise attack in Israel on October 7. Israel responded with airstrikes and a ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

– With files from The Canadian Press