University of Toronto’s Protest: A Tense Stand-off

Last Updated: June 16, 2024By

University of Toronto’s Protest: A Tense Stand-off

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The University of Toronto (UofT) has issued an ultimatum to pro-Palestinian activists camping on its downtown campus. These activists have been given 24 hours to accept a proposal to end their three-week protest camp, or they might be considered trespassers and could face police intervention.

The University’s Stance

Meric Gertler, the president of UofT, made it clear that the encampment needs to be dismantled. He mentioned issues like harassment, discrimination, and lack of inclusion as reasons for this decision. Gertler emphasized that from the start, the aim was to find a peaceful and lasting solution to this unauthorized encampment. “The encampment must end,” he stated firmly.

Protesters’ Demands

The protesters, who set up camp on May 2nd with support from students and faculty, are demanding that the university divest from companies that invest in Israel or support military actions in Gaza. After meeting with the protesters on Thursday, UofT gave them a 24-hour deadline to respond or face possible consequences. However, the exact time of this deadline wasn’t specified.

Potential Police Involvement

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In a press conference, Gertler didn’t rule out calling the police. He said, “[We] are not eliminating any options.” This has raised concerns among the protesters, considering the camp is the largest of its kind in Canada, following similar movements at Columbia University in New York, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and other US campuses.

Violence in the US Protests

In the US, these protests have sometimes turned violent. At UCLA, pro-Israel groups launched fireworks at pro-Palestinian protesters, leading to physical altercations. Four student journalists covering the protests were attacked by pro-Israel supporters and suffered beatings, kicks, and chemical sprays.

At Columbia University, things got even more intense. Police in riot gear were accused of using excessive force on civilians while clearing the protest site. Faculty and students were disappointed with Columbia’s administration for allowing police intervention and arrests of students, including student journalists.

UofT’s Offer

In its statement, UofT proposed creating a working group to focus on the divestment issue, promising a swift approach for a timely report. However, this proposal fell short of addressing some of the protesters’ key demands, like ending partnerships with Israeli universities.

Protesters’ Response

The Occupy for Palestine group at UofT did not directly address the 24-hour deadline. Instead, they tweeted that Thursday marked the start of the fourth week of their protest. “There is nothing peaceful or sustainable about investing in genocide,” the group posted.

Graduation Ceremonies to Continue

Despite the ongoing protest, UofT’s graduation ceremonies, starting on June 3rd, will go ahead as planned. Gertler assured that these events would not be affected by the presence of the encampment.

Final Thoughts

This protest at UofT highlights the growing tension and strong emotions surrounding the issue of divestment and support for Palestinian rights. As the deadline approaches, all eyes are on how the situation will unfold and whether a peaceful resolution can be achieved.

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