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McGill says it will try to de-escalate standoff with camps before calling in police

Montreal’s McGill University says it will make efforts to de-escalate before asking for police help with a camp that’s been set up on campus by pro-Palestinian activists.

An update from the school late yesterday warned that if the situation evolves further “beyond the university’s protocols” it will have “a duty to request police support in order to protect the health and safety of all on site.”

Dozens of tents have been pitched on the lawn of McGill’s downtown campus and the activists say they have no intention of dismantling them until McGill, as well as Concordia University, divest from all companies which they claim are “profiting from genocide.”

McGill has said many of the activists, if not the majority, are not members of the school community and that it had seen video of some people using “unequivocally antisemitic language and intimidating behaviour,” but it did not provide further details.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have also set up an encampment at the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey Campus, and the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa have both warned that setting up encampments on campus will not be tolerated.

The encampments, which come just ahead of the end of final exams at McGill on Tuesday, follow a wave of similar protests across campuses in the United States linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

Encampment members have also demanded McGill divest from Israeli companies it says are “complicit in the occupation of Palestine.” They also want the school to cut academic ties with Israeli institutions.

UBC officials say they are monitoring the situation there and are reminding protesters to follow the university’s policy and the law while taking protest action.

B.C. Premier David Eby says student leaders and the administration should balance the need for free speech on campus with the need to foster safe spaces, especially for Jewish students during a time where they need additional support to feel safe.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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