Members of pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill say they’re in talks with university over demands

“Take exceptional measures," said one Montreal student at the pro-Palestinian McGill encampment, now on day 10. Protestors have started talks with the university regarding demands for divestment from businesses tied to Israel. Swidda Rassy reports.

Pro-Palestinian protesters held a press conference on Monday on day 10 of the encampment on McGill’s downtown Montreal campus. Representatives said they’re in talks with the university regarding the encampment’s demands for divestment from businesses tied to Israel.

“As of this morning, we have submitted in a closed meeting with McGill administration the encampments demands, and we have yet to receive a clear timeline and process on how they will meet these demands,” said a student part of the Independent Jewish Voices.

“Our demands have been clear. We demand material divestment from one: the McGill Investments Committee and the Board of Governors to disclose all investments in companies complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people. Two: termination of all courses, internships and cooperatives and exchange programs with apartheid Israel. And three: complete divestment from all companies complicit in the Israeli occupation and the genocide of the Palestinians, including weapons and technology companies.”

The group says until McGill meets their demands, the encampment will stay put. 

“From investing in South African apartheid to the historic and ongoing subjugation of Indigenous people, McGill University has always been on the wrong side of history,” said a representative for SPHR McGill. “Students, however, have long been at the forefront of social struggles, and as we see today in this global student uprising, students have declared their commitment to divestment and academic boycott.”

In a statement to CityNews McGill University said: “The university’s ongoing goal is to achieve a timely and peaceful end to the encampment. We are continuing to be in contact with some members of the McGill community who are taking part in the encampment.

“We are listening to them and seeking to explore pathways to a meaningful resolution that adheres to our own institutional mission and principles. We are not commenting on the substance of those discussions.”

Some professors at McGill University showed their support on Monday.

“I think it’s because students and professors don’t want to be complicit in what they see as a genocide in Gaza right now,” said Daniel Schwartz, a McGill Professor. “So that’s why it is important, and it’s important to support students that are exercising their free speech rights.”

Protestors set up the encampment ten days ago. Since then, the number of tents and people there has grown. 

“We have had a beautiful amount of generous donations to the extent that we have enough to feed everyone that sleeps there, everyone that comes,” said Ari Nahman of Independent Jewish Voices. “We have water, we have food, but we also have like clothes because it’s been muddy and rain and we even have enough excess and abundance that we’ve been giving it to shelters around. We have groups giving it to Indigenous people’s shelters, homeless people’s shelters all around downtown.”

Ari Nahman at pro-Palestinian McGill encampment in Montreal on May 6, 2024. (Swidda Rassy, CityNews)
Concordia University student Ari Nahman at pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill in Montreal on May 6, 2024. (Swidda Rassy, CityNews)

However, some supporters are facing pushback. Earlier in the afternoon, one McGill faculty member bringing in N95 masks for students was stopped by campus security and told that bringing in supplies to the encampment was prohibited.

“It is precisely the administration’s continuous refusal to heed the student demands that has led the student body to take exceptional measures and establish this encampment in coordination with 140 universities worldwide,” said one student.

Pro-Palestinian activists have also set up tents at the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa and the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver, following a wave of similar protests at campuses in the United States linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

Opponents of the encampments have said the protests are illegal and make some Jewish students feel unsafe, and both McGill and Premier François Legault have asked police to help dismantle the tents in Montreal.

Last week, a counter-protest by pro-Israel demonstrators was held steps away from the encampment. Heavy police presence separated the two and it ended peacefully.

The SPVM said in a press release last Thursday evening that it had taken note of the decision rendered by the court to reject the request for a provisional injunction from two McGill students, due to of “the absence of demonstration of an emergency.”

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