‘Anything we need’: Pro-Palestinian protesters at McGill find comfort in community

"Whatever the student needs," says one student, as pro-Palestinian protesters at McGill University in Montreal are overwhelmed they explain by community response, with donations coming in daily. Swidda Rassy reports.

As the pro-Palestinian encampment at Montreal’s McGill University entered its 11th day, protesters say they are embracing the sense of community that has emerged from the demonstration.

Protesters tell CityNews they are overwhelmed by the positive response from the community, with their “micro society” being maintained thanks to donations.

“There’s a medics tent, there’s a library, there’s a snack tent, there’s a food tent, there’s an art tent, there’s everything in there,” said a McGill student who chose to remain anonymous.

“We get community members come in every single day to donate, whatever the students need.”

Food and water section inside the pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University on May 7, 2024. (Swidda Rassy, CityNews)

The student says she has been camping for the entire 11 days – since the camp first went up on April 27. She adds the camp – and the community spirit within it – has grown in that time.

“People come together for the same cause of divestment,” she said. “We all work together, we have meetings occasionally, people work in groups to tackle different things in order to make the camp a better living space.”

Whiteboard showing list of items needed inside the pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University on May 7, 2024. (Swidda Rassy, CityNews)

The protesters say donations arrive every day. There is also a whiteboard with a list of items campers need.

“We’ve been getting hot meals, prepared meals, every single day, multiple times a day from restaurants all around the city, it’s been amazing,” said a student with the group Independent Jewish Voices (IJW). “These campers really appreciate it. We’ve been getting tents, sleeping bags, batteries, portable chargers, anything we need to show our solidarity with this movement and continue growing.”

The protesters say when there is an influx of donations, they too give back to the community.

“We have a free store, so for anybody who comes to us, we have food, we have water,” the student explained.

“Free store” inside the pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University on May 7, 2024. (Swidda Rassy, CityNews)

Encampment members met with McGill on Monday to discuss their demands, which include the university cutting ties with Israeli academic institutions and pulling all investments from companies that operate in the country. But the meeting fell short of what the protesters wanted, they say.

“They have not been clear in their timeline or their processes for demands,” the student with IJV said. “We haven’t seen a real engagement with the divestment process.”

Protesters reiterate they intend to stay put until McGill meets their demands. Until then, they are confident the community will continue stepping up.

“This issue did not begin seven months ago,” the student said, referencing the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, 2023. “This divestment campaign has been happening on this campus for years on end. And for them to still be ignoring it when student voices are so visibly ashamed of their university’s complicity is shocking.”

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