McGill University seeks court order to dismantle pro-Palestinian encampment

Click to play video: 'Pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill in 2nd week'
Pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill in 2nd week
RELATED: The pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University has entered its second week. While calls to dismantle the camp continue to stack up. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports – May 6, 2024

Montreal’s McGill University announced late Friday that it is seeking a court order to require participants in a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus to dismantle the site.

In a press release, McGill president and vice-chancellor Deep Saini said it is seeking an injunction despite ongoing talks with campers aimed at reaching a timely and peaceful resolution.

The protest began April 27, on the lower campus of the university in downtown Montreal, following a wave of similar demonstrations on campuses across the United States concerning the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Activists have been calling on both McGill and Concordia universities to divest from Israel-connected funds.

Saini said the university is committed to continuing discussions “in good faith” with members of the McGill community participating in the encampment, even if the court order is granted.

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He warned, however, Montreal police would be authorized to execute the order.

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Saini cited multiple reasons for wanting the encampment gone, including health and safety hazards.

“For example, it appears that the people inside the encampment have no escape routes in case of fire,” a statement said.

“The encampment, which is densely populated, backs onto the McLennan Library building and is barricaded by fencing on three sides. There appears to be only one point to enter or exit the encampment. The encampment also obstructs an emergency exit at the McLennan Library.”

The university also cited the escalation of tension on campus following protests and counter-protests.

“On May 2, protests in support of and against the encampment required the mobilization of more than 100 police officers and the closure of part of Sherbrooke Street.”

In addition to safety concerns, Saini reiterated that ultimately the university is private property and first and foremost “for the use and benefit of the McGill community.”

“The encampment will, in all likelihood, prevent students and their families from celebrating this spring’s convocation on lower campus, where the ceremonies for most faculties normally take place.”

Meanwhile, activists were swift to condemn the university’s “shameful move,” and scheduled a press conference later Friday evening.

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In a press release, organizers with SPHR McGill refuted claims the university was negotiating in good faith.

“This development follows the rejection of an earlier injunction by the court, which recognized the protest as peaceful,” the release states.

“Furthermore, representatives from the SPVM have confirmed that the activities within the encampment do not violate any laws, negating the need for police action.”

— with files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise

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