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Pro-Palestinian encampment members say little progress made in meeting with McGill

MONTREAL — Pro-Palestinian protesters who have set up an encampment at Montreal’s McGill University say they’re no closer to taking down their tents after meeting with members of the school administration.

Encampment spokespeople held a news conference after the meeting and said the university did not provide a clear timeline or process for meeting their demands. 

The protesters are demanding the university divest from companies they say are “complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine,” and cut ties with Israeli institutions.

The protesters fenced off an area containing dozens of tents on McGill’s lower field on April 27, following a wave of similar campus protests in the United States.

The spokespeople, who described themselves as members of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill and Independent Jewish Voices McGill, say the protesters plan to maintain and expand their encampment until their demands are met.

McGill did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said Sunday that it continues to work “diligently and in good faith” with all interested parties.

Last week, McGill president Deep Saini offered to hold “a forum with members of the McGill community” to discuss their demands, but only if they took down the tents.

The representatives of SPHR McGill and Independent Jewish Voices, who refused to identify themselves because they said they feared harassment or reprisals from the university, said Monday’s meeting came after the students had submitted a list of clear demands.

“This press conference follows a meeting with the McGill administrators where they had pledged to present a concrete proposal to the coalition, but they have failed to come back with a concrete process and a clear timeline,” said the SPHR McGill member, who described herself as a Palestinian student. 

The student said protesters are “steady and determined to sustain and expand this encampment until our demands are met,” adding that they are open to continuing dialogue with the school.

Encampment members were joined at the news conference by members of the Mohawk Mothers, who are from the Kahnawake Mohawk territory, as well as supportive faculty. 

Daniel Schwartz, an assistant professor in Russian and German cinemas at McGill, spoke on behalf of what he said was a growing number of professors who stand against Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

“As McGill professors, we are strongly opposed to our university administration’s relentless campaign against the students who are working to stop the genocide in Palestine, and to advocate for justice by ending the occupation,” he said. 

The press conference was held shortly after Hamas announced it had accepted an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal. But the students protesting in the encampment said their news conference was unrelated, adding that their demands concern divestment and not a ceasefire. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2024.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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