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University of Guelph urges protesters at pro-Palestinian camp to leave to avoid possible legal action

University of Guelph urges protesters at pro-Palestinian camp to leave to avoid possible legal action
University of Guelph urges protesters at pro-Palestinian camp to leave to avoid possible legal action

On Monday, protesters at the pro-Palestinian camp at the University of Guelph were ticketed for trespassing.

Staff delivered the letter over the weekend, asking members to “peacefully end the camp” by 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 7. If they were not gone from the school by the deadline, protesters were warned that the school would take additional legal action.

Camp members responded to the school’s request Monday morning.

In a press release, they said U of G’s latest move was “another demonstration of bad faith,” adding that it was “unrealistic to safely dismantle in this timeframe” and that they refused “to meet the unrealistic expectation of adhering to arbitrary deadlines set by the administration under threat of legal action.”

The University of Guelph kept its promise.

“Unfortunately, the camp members did not dismantle or leave. As a result, we took the step (Monday) morning to send a statutory notice of violation to the camp members,” their statement read. “If the camp is not immediately dismantled and Branion Plaza is vacated, the university will seek an injunction from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.”

The camp, set up nearly 50 days ago, followed similar student movements at other Ontario universities and demanded that the school divest from Israeli companies that profit from the conflict in Palestine, among other demands.

“Going through this process was not our first choice,” the University of Guelph statement continued. “This development comes despite substantial proposals being made in response to the requests of Camp representatives. Camp’s unwillingness to consider anything other than immediate and complete divestment negates the significant actions the University is taking to support the advancement of a more inclusive and welcoming campus community. As Camp members are aware, their requests regarding divestment are currently before an ad hoc committee of the Board of Governors — a process activated in March by U of G for Palestine in accordance with the Special Action Policy.”

Celia Garcia, one of the students in the camp, disagrees with the university’s position.

“The U of G admin claims they want a ‘peaceful solution’ for the camp. They have refused to engage with us, with our demands, for weeks,” Garcia insisted. “They only gave us one day’s notice to remove our camp under threat of legal action. They have tried to (surveillance) and intimidate us at all times. If they wanted a peaceful solution, they could have committed to divestment from weapons production, apartheid, and genocide of Palestinians weeks ago.”

Garcia added that one day is not enough time to thoroughly pack the camp.

“The People’s Plaza for Palestine has always planned to redistribute all excess materials and resources from our camp to those experiencing homelessness in our city and to community programs after our stay here,” Garcia explained. “This process of packing and moving these materials in an organized manner to avoid damage and waste would take more than a day’s notice to arrange.”

Another student, Abdullah Baabbullah, from the Muslim Student Association, said the camp poses no threat to people on campus.

“(Encampment) participants have been subjected to intolerant comments that have posed a safety risk to them,” he said. “There is no place for hate on our campus and the encampment stands as a peaceful protest.”

The students weren’t sure what would happen next, but if they do leave, they will continue to demand action from the school.

CTV News reached out to the University of Guelph for an interview, but the school declined our request.