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Pro-Palestinian settlement on McGill campus in downtown Montreal dismantled – Winnipeg Free Press

Pro-Palestinian settlement on McGill campus in downtown Montreal dismantled – Winnipeg Free Press
Pro-Palestinian settlement on McGill campus in downtown Montreal dismantled – Winnipeg Free Press

MONTREAL – Under pouring rain, pro-Palestinian protesters packed up their belongings from the McGill University campus in downtown Montreal on Wednesday as bulldozers and security forces dismantled the camp that had been in place on the school’s lower field since late April.

“That was officially the last stand. There’s no one left in the camp,” said protester Félix Burt, 20, who stood a block from McGill’s lower field, where a pile of tents and wooden pallets remained of the protest site. He and others refused to leave until the university divested from investments tied to the Israeli military and severed ties with academic institutions in that country.

Earlier in the day, McGill President Deep Saini called the camp, one of many that have sprung up on campuses across the continent since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, “a heavily amplified focal point of intimidation and violence, largely organized by individuals who are not part of our university community.”

Supporters stand outside the pro-Palestinian protest camp on the campus of McGill University in Montreal, Monday, June 17, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

But for Burt, who said he was not a McGill student, the protest was about resistance.

“As long as the people of Gaza resist, we will also resist,” he said.

A Montreal police spokesperson said one person was arrested Wednesday for assaulting a security guard.

McGill says that after consulting with lawyers, it hired private security firm Sirco to dismantle the camp, which consisted of dozens of tents. In May, the university tried to get an emergency court order to have police clear the protesters, but that attempt failed. McGill has since filed a request for another order to remove them, which is now moving through the courts.

“The owner of a building has every right to ask people who occupy the building without permission to leave,” the school said in a statement Wednesday. The school will retain that right even as it takes legal action against the protesters.

Earlier on Wednesday, police, some dressed in riot gear, cordoned off the streets leading to the university’s lower field, as a crowd of protesters gathered at the police line, waving Palestinian flags. Several protesters vowed to keep fighting despite the dismantling of the camp.

“The students are steadfast in their struggle,” said Zeyad Abisaab, a Concordia University student who watched from the street.

Zaina Karim, a McGill student who was not at the camp when the dismantling began, said the protesters will continue until the university takes a stand and cuts ties with Israel.

“This is definitely not the end. Students are more motivated than ever to keep fighting,” Karim said.

Sarah Shamy, a former McGill student and organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement, says she believes McGill decided to hire a private security company because of the company’s failed attempts to dismantle the camp through court orders.

“I’m definitely disappointed, but not surprised. I think it’s very clear that the McGill administration is not committed to actually bringing this camp to a peaceful end,” Shamy said.

A woman leaves the pro-Palestinian camp at McGill University with her belongings in Montreal, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. Police cordon off streets around the university as McGill security begins dismantling the camp. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

In its statement, the school said an investigation had found what it described as “serious health and safety risks” at the camp, including two overdoses, fire hazards and a rat infestation.

Karim denied Saini’s allegations. “These are all lies,” she said.
In Quebec City, Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry told reporters it was “time” to remove the protesters from the camp.