Security firm helps dismantle pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University

Click to play video: 'Pro-Palestinian encampment cleared out at Montreal’s McGill University'
Pro-Palestinian encampment cleared out at Montreal’s McGill University
McGill University says the pro-Palestinian encampment on its downtown Montreal campus is being cleared out. Montreal police and a private security firm hired by the university were on site Wednesday morning – Jul 10, 2024

The long-standing pro-Palestinian encampment was dismantled at McGill University on Wednesday morning as dozens of Montreal police officers descended on campus and one man was arrested.

McGill president Deep Saini said the university was clearing out the camp in “close collaboration” with the city and police, and through the “engagement of a qualified security firm.”

“This camp was not a peaceful protest,” Saini said in a written statement posted online.

“It was a heavily fortified focal point for intimidation and violence, organized largely by individuals who are not part of our university community.”

A Montreal police spokesperson said a 21-year-old man was arrested for assault on a security agent. Security escorted the person outside the campus gates where police officers made the arrest.

According to university officials, security entered the encampment shortly before 5 a.m. and demanded the pro-Palestinian protesters leave campus grounds. Following orders, some demonstrators were seen leaving the property in waves and not allowed to return.

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McGill emergency operations centre said in an update at 9:25 a.m. that the clearing out was “proceeding peacefully.”

“Of the approximately 35 people at the site, almost all have chosen to leave. Individuals were given the opportunity to remove their personal belongings as they departed,” the centre said on the university’s website, adding the fencing encircling the encampment will also be removed.

Police stand by as protesters holds up signs at McGill University in Montreal, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. The university closed its downtown campus as police descended in large numbers to help clear a pro-Palestinian encampment. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The dismantling led to several splinter demonstrations in support of the encampment starting in the street. Sherbrooke Street was closed off as bulldozers and trucks flattened what was left of the camp.

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“Due to the presence of human waste, a rat infestation, discarded syringes, a large amount of rotting food and garbage, and other potentially dangerous and unsanitary conditions within the site, it was necessary to use heavy machinery to remove parts of the camp for the safety of all involved,” McGill’s emergency operations centre said on its website in the afternoon.

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Aside from local authorities, Quebec provincial police were also on site to assist in the operation.

Quebec Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry lauded the development at McGill while speaking to reporters at the provincial legislature. The province has asked for weeks for the encampment to be dismantled, she said.

“We’re following the situation very closely, but this is good news,” Déry said.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s office said in an email that McGill informed police of its decision to remove the encampment and Montreal police were “on site to ensure the safety of everyone in the area. Everything seems to have taken place calmly and respectfully.”

Meanwhile, McGill said classes typically held on campus were moved online as it advised students and faculty to stay away. Libraries and campus daycares were also closed.

Protesters move signs as security clears the pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University in Montreal, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
A woman leaves the pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University with her belongings in Montreal, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. Police have cordoned off the streets surrounding the university as McGill security begins to dismantle the encampment. CMU

The encampment began April 27 at McGill amid a wave of similar demonstrations across universities in the United States over the Israel-Hamas conflict. Since then, dozens of tents have been pitched on the university’s lower field.

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At the more-than-10-week-old encampment, protesters have demanded McGill divest from Israel-connected funds.

“The students are steadfast in their struggle,” said Zeyad Abisaab, a Concordia University student who looked on from the street and said he had previously been part of a student-led Palestinian solidarity group.

A pro-Palestinian encampment in the heart of Montreal’s financial district was dismantled by police last week.

— with files from Global’s Franca Mignacca and The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'McGill University makes amnesty offer to Pro-Palestinian encampment'
McGill University makes amnesty offer to Pro-Palestinian encampment

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