New pro-Palestinian camp at Université du Québec à Montréal, organizers say


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Pro-Palestinian activists from Montreal say they have set up a new camp at the Université du Québec à Montréal, as nearby McGill University prepares to go to court to clear the protest camp on its grounds.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Montreal pro-Palestinian activists said Sunday they have set up a new camp at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, as nearby McGill University prepares to go to court to clear the protest camp that has been in place since March 27. April will be on their premises.

Solidarité pour les droits Humains des Palestiniennes et Palestiniens said in a press release that UQAM joins the international student movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The protesters are demanding that their university cut ties with Israeli institutions and disclose all ties to Israel, as well as the Quebec government scrapping plans for a diplomatic office in Israel.

“As the occupying powers intensify their murderous aggression against Rafah, we, students and workers, refuse to remain silent in the face of apartheid, genocide and colonial crimes committed by the State of Israel,” said Leila Khaled, spokeswoman for the camp called Universite Populaire Al-Aqsa.

“We appeal to UQAM, but also to the state of Quebec and the state of Canada, to take measures to end their cooperation and complicity with the rogue state.”

They also want McGill to withdraw its request for a court order to clear the encampment on the lower field and for an end to all attempts to “judicialize” protesters.

The press release said the activists had no intention of leaving the UQAM camp until their demands were met and encouraged protesters at other locations to follow suit.

Following the lead of protesters on U.S. campuses, protesters in Canada have set up camps at universities in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, as well as in Edmonton and Calgary, where police moved in to forcibly remove demonstrators.

Edmonton police broke up a pro-Palestinian camp on the University of Alberta campus Saturday, sparking outrage among students and academics who called the operation violent and disputed claims that protesters had broken the law.

On Sunday, University of Alberta President Bill Flanagan acknowledged public concern over the school's decision to involve police, which he said was “tremendously difficult.”

However, he said the university had an obligation to act given the safety concerns at the site, adding that fire hazards as well as “potential weapons” such as hammers, axes and screwdrivers were found after dismantling.

“There is no doubt that the camp posed a serious and imminent threat of potential violence and injury to members of the university community and the public,” he wrote. He said peaceful protests would continue to be tolerated.

Meanwhile, McGill University will ask a judge on Monday to order protesters to stop camping on or occupying its grounds and to authorize Montreal police to help the school dismantle the encampment if necessary.

In a court request for an injunction Friday, McGill framed his request based on health concerns and what he described as a “risk of violence and intimidation.”

The filing cites “violent verbal altercations” between protesters and counter-protesters earlier this month, barrels of “human waste” on site, possible fire code violations such as a single exit exit, and the camp's potential as a “magnet” for further clashes.

In addition to doubling security at the plaza, McGill said it will likely have to spend more than $700,000 on an alternative venue for spring convocation ceremonies that are typically held on the site, which is partly inhabited by protesters.

Attempts to negotiate an end to the camp through lawyers have been unsuccessful, and Montreal police have so far refused to intervene “as their criteria for police intervention were not met.”