McGill University closes campus for dismantling operation of pro-Palestinian encampment | CBC News – Daily Frontline

McGill University closes campus for dismantling operation of pro-Palestinian encampment | CBC News
– Daily Frontline

McGill University announced the closure of its downtown campus Wednesday morning for a dismantling operation of the pro-Palestinian encampment that was set up more than 10 weeks ago.

In a statement on its website, McGill said the university has been subject to “ongoing and escalating acts of violence and vandalism associated with the encampment” and said the site poses health and safety risks.

“To protect the security of the McGill community and the integrity of our property, the encampment on the lower field of the downtown campus is being dismantled,” the McGill University Emergency Operations Centre wrote.

A large force of local and provincial police officers, some wearing riot gear, descended on the campus earlier in the morning after the university served two eviction notices to the protesters.

Some police officers are wearing helmets. Others are on bicycles or on horseback. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Around 4 a.m., a post from an Instagram account belonging to protesters at the encampment said police were surrounding the side streets at McGill and feared that police would dismantle the tents.

They called for urgent support to defend the camp and asked people to come in numbers, as well as to bring masks, goggles and personal safety equipment.

Images from the scene showed Montreal police in riot gear, while other officers are on bicycles and on horseback near the Roddick Gates — the main entrance to the McGill campus.

Montreal police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant said officers from the Montreal City Police Department (SPVM) are present, but only for support purposes.

He said McGill is using a private security agency for a dismantling operation, but there has so far been no move to take down the tents.

Two groups of protesters, accompanied by security guards, were seen leaving the area peacefully early Wednesday, however there are still protesters in the camp. Those who were kicked out of the encampment, around 50 people, have staged a protest on Sherbrooke Street.

The SPVM has established a perimeter on Sherbrooke Street. No arrests have been made.

The university said everyone should stay away from the downtown campus. All events, summer programs and activities are cancelled for the day.

‘Focal point for intimidation and violence’

Since April 27, students have camped on the downtown campus in protest of the university’s investments in weapons companies and companies with ties to Israel.

In a statement Wednesday morning to the McGill community, Saini said the university will always respect freedom of expression and assembly exercised within the limits of laws and policies that ensure safety.

“However, recent events go far beyond peaceful protest, and have inhibited the respectful exchange of views and ideas that is so essential to the university’s mission and to our sense of community,” he said.

Saini said the university hired a firm to investigate the activities taking place inside the encampment as police and university officials were long denied access.

Police form a barrier between protesters who were escorted out and the university campus.
Police form a barrier between protesters who were escorted out and the university campus. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

He said the firm found few members of the McGill community were part of the encampment and that most were activists from external groups or unhoused individuals residing there overnight.

The firm is said to have found that two drug overdoses occurred in the camp since July 6 and illegal drugs have been sold there.

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

Last camp standing in Quebec

Prior to Wednesday’s operation, two Quebec Superior Court judges rejected provisional injunctions to have the McGill encampment removed and police had said they would not act against it until they received judicial authorization.

All other pro-Palestinian encampments set up at universities in Quebec, including one at Université du Quebec à Montréal (UQAM), Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke have been dismantled.

Last week, Montreal police in riot gear kicked protesters out of a pro-Palestinian encampment in Victoria Square and dismantled the camp. Those protesters were pushing for Quebec’s public pension fund manager, the CDPQ, to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

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