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Protesters at McGill pro-Palestinian encampment are staying put despite warning for them to leave | CBC News

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Protesters at a pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University say they aren’t going anywhere.

Shortly before 4 p.m., Nicholas Thibert-Auclair, who works for McGill security, told the protesters they “have no right to be here” and would have to leave the area. Protesters were handed pamphlets telling them to disperse immediately with all their belongings.

Thibert-Auclair returned to give a “final warning” and said the university would “consider other options” if protesters don’t comply, including calling the police. 

McGill confirmed this information in a statement sent Monday afternoon.

University officials said earlier Monday that the number of tents at the encampment on McGill University’s downtown Montreal campus had tripled since Saturday.

By Monday morning, the group of people gathered on McGill campus had grown. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press)

The protesters set up about 20 tents Saturday afternoon with the intent of staying on McGill University’s lower field “indefinitely.” They joined a wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations held on campuses across the United States who want to see universities divest from companies with business ties to Israel.

In a statement published Monday, the university’s media relations office said the situation with protesters on campus had “shifted significantly.”

“We have become aware that many of them, if not the majority, are not members of the McGill community,” the statements reads.

University officials also said they saw video evidence of “some people using unequivocally antisemitic language and intimidating behaviour” on campus. CBC News requested a copy of the video, but the university has not responded. 

WATCH | The latest from McGill campus as the protest enters its third day:

Pro-Palestinian protesters encamped at McGill for 3rd day

CBC’s Kwabena Oduro reports live from McGill University in Montreal, where pro-Palestinian protesters say they plan to stay at their encampment on campus until the university divests from Israel.

Sasha Robson, a member of Independent Jewish Voices McGill who was at the encampment overnight Monday, told CBC News there were no reports of issues overnight.

Zeca Eufemia, a McGill student and teaching assistant who was among those protesting, said the encampment had, indeed, tripled in size, as the university statement claimed. 

“We have had people coming in from the community,” he said. “These allegations of antisemitism, I have been here since Saturday, I have not seen any of that.”

Eufemia said supporters from other universities had come to the McGill encampment. He said he was protesting to ensure that money from the tuition he pays doesn’t go to companies that could make weapons that will be used in Gaza.

“We are making our voices heard,” he told CBC News.

The protesters have published a list of investments they object to, which includes approximately $20 million of investments that McGill says it holds in a variety of companies, including Lockheed Martin, an aerospace company that manufactures weapons used by the Israeli military.

McGill publishes a list of its investments online, showing an endowment of more than $1 billion invested in various securities. 

Sasha Boucher, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party who was not a McGill student but said he was at the encampment in solidarity with Palestinians, said the protesters felt support from the general public. 

“We have actually more food than we know what to do with. We’re telling people to stop bringing us stuff — for now, we’re going to need more stuff later,” he said. “It’s been going very well, there’s a very strong sense of solidarity here.” 

Throughout the weekend, McGill’s media relations office and Montreal police said the protest had been peaceful. 

Nanre Nafziger, an assistant professor in McGill’s department of integrated studies in education, said she came to the encampment to support the protesting students. 

“We stand by them,” she said. “They have the right to protest. They have the right to make demands of the university and we also want to stand by and let them know we are in support of them fully.” 

Israel launched its war against Hamas after the militant group’s attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. During the attacks, some 1,200 people were killed and around 250 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. More than 130 hostages are still being held in Gaza, including women and children.

security guard dressed in blue looks over tents on grass
A McGill University security guard looks out at the pro-Palestinian encampment set up on the university campus in Montreal on Monday. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press)

Health authorities in Gaza say Israel’s offensive in the enclave has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians — the majority of them women and children — and has led to the imminent risk of famine, the destruction of key hospitals and, according to the United Nations, the displacement of 1.9 million people.

David Garfinkle, a Jewish man who lives near McGill’s downtown campus, came by the protest on Monday. 

“I don’t like it,” he said of the protest, saying that Israel was targeting Hamas, not Palestinian civilians. 

But he acknowledged that the war’s death toll was incredibly high. 

blue tent with flag in front
Pro-Palestinian activists fly a flag in an encampment set up on McGill University’s campus in Montreal. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press)

“If 30,000 of my neighbours and family were being killed I would probably do the same thing,” he said, “But I would let [Israel] have what they want.… We want Hamas to go bye-bye.” 

Garfinkle said the protesters should be marching on the streets, not occupying McGill’s campus, and should be calling for Hamas to give themselves up. 

WATCH | Minister Marc Miller reacts to McGill encampment: 

Right to protest at McGill must be respected but violence can’t be tolerated, minister says

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller called the right to free speech ‘excessively important’ when asked about a pro-Palestinian encampment on McGill University’s downtown campus. But Miller, who represents the Montreal riding where McGill is located, cautioned that ‘we shouldn’t tolerate for a second any form of violence or any hate speech, including antisemitism.’

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller, whose Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs riding includes McGill University, told journalists “the right to protest and the right to free speech is excessively important, especially in an academic setting” on Monday.

He said that right “doesn’t permit violence,” including hate speech, which will be watched “carefully.”

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