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Protesters set up pro-Palestinian encampment at Queen’s University in Kingston

Click to play video: 'Protestors erect Pro-Palestinian encampment at Queen’s University in Kingston'
Protestors erect Pro-Palestinian encampment at Queen’s University in Kingston
A pro-Palestinian encampment at Queen's University in Kingston was set up on May 10. Since then, the university has called out what it says were aggressive acts – May 14, 2024

A pro-Palestinian encampment at Queen’s University in Kingston is joining a network of similar encampments seen at university and college campuses across the country.

Protesters at Queen’s said they plan to stay until their demands — that the university pull out of its investments in Israeli companies and the Israeli military — are met.

This comes after encampments were set up on other campuses across the country, most notably at McGill University, where the administration said it is heading to court to obtain an injunction that would force protesters to clear out.

The encampment at Queen’s began on May 10. At the time, protesters said they had hoped to speak at a university board of trustees meeting to ask the university to divest but were refused entry. A video from a group called the Queen’s University Faculty Observer’s Network shows a few protesters being taken out of the building where the meeting was taking place.

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Some protesters have accused campus security of using excessive force in handling the incident on May 10.

“They wouldn’t hear them in an open session as mandated in their bylaws to be heard,” said Jake Morrow, a graduate student at the university who was at the protest.

He said the plan had never been to set up an encampment until after the incident with campus security.

Global News has identified the two men out of uniform in the video as head of campus security Chris Scott in the black jacket and Joel Keenleyside, manager of security operations, in the beige trench coat. A request for comment from them and the university on the incident was not answered.

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Morrow, also the union president for the PSAC 901, said he and the other protesters are not leaving until their demands are met.

“To divest, this is why we’re here,” he said.

The university issued a statement on Monday stating the encampment had been “contained and secured.” It advised staff and faculty to exercise their best judgement when accessing the courtyard by Reem’s Hall, the site of the encampment.

“While this encampment is largely peaceful at the moment, there were reports of aggressive acts and threats made during the early protest,” the statement read. It did not provide details on such acts.

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“The safety and wellbeing of our staff, faculty and students is our priority. Everyone should feel safe working and studying on campus.”

The statement said the university secretariat has received a request on divestment, which is being reviewed. The process of considering the request, according to the university, would involve providing a written case, along with a petition of at least 200 signatures, which is then reviewed by the secretariat and forwarded to the principal. The request is then pushed through an independent review committee.

As for the handling of protesters, some said they are worried about their safety and further reaction from campus security.

“This institution doesn’t care about its students. It makes me feel like they prioritize property and the feelings of the board of trustees over human rights,” said one protester who didn’t provide their name but identified as an alum.

On Monday, several faculty and staff members at Queen’s held a press conference at the encampment to show their support for the protesters. Reading a statement prepared for the conference, the director of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Samantha King, said any threats or violence that occurred outside Reem’s Hall were incited by campus security and police.

“We are dismayed by the administration’s ongoing failure to respond responsibly to an international crisis in the capacity of an educational institution,” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Tensions rising over Canadian campus protest encampments'
Tensions rising over Canadian campus protest encampments

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