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Pro-Palestinian encampment at University of Alberta dismantled by Edmonton police

Edmonton police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Alberta early Saturday morning, one of several measures authorities have taken in recent days to crack down on campus protesters at sites across the country.

The Edmonton Police Service said it repeatedly gave campus demonstrators notice that they were breaching university policy and provincial trespassing laws. Officers issued a final warning just after 4:30 a.m. and escorted demonstrators from the north campus quad following one last call to leave, said spokesman Scott Pattison.

The move by authorities came less than two days after the camp began to form on Thursday, mushrooming to about 40 tents by the next day as protesters called on the university for divestment from Israeli institutions. The group has also demanded disclosure of those investments, a declaration of the right to protest and condemnation of Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip as a “genocide.”

University president Bill Flanagan issued a statement on Saturday citing fire hazards and the risk of escalation and violent clashes with counter-protesters among the reasons for police involvement.

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“Of great concern, some members of the group brought in wood pallets, materials known to be used as barricade-making materials — actions that are counter to peaceful, law-abiding protests,” he said.

“Overnight protests are often accompanied by serious violence and larger crowds amplify those inherent risks — especially as they attract counter-protestors or outside agitators.”

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Flanagan said about one quarter of the 50 protesters were University of Alberta students, “to the best of our knowledge,” adding police reported no critical injuries.

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“The vast majority of those present complied with the police direction and decamped peacefully from university property. Unfortunately two individuals without any connection to the University of Alberta did not comply with the request to vacate and they were removed,” he said.

He added that “approved, peaceful protests are welcome” but they must comply with university policies and public safety rules.

A post on the university4palestine.yeg Instagram page said four people were arrested, with at least two released by 7:30 a.m.

Following the lead of protesters on U.S. campuses, demonstrators in Canada have erected encampments at universities in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver as well as Calgary, where police forcibly removed participants from campus on Thursday night. The head of the University of Calgary said the dismantling devolved into a clash with officers because of counter-protesters.

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Meanwhile, McGill University has sought a court order to clear an encampment at the heart of its campus in Montreal, saying safety and security are at stake.

In a judicial application for an injunction filed Friday, the university framed its request around sanitary concerns and what it described as the “risk of violence and intimidation.”

The filing cites “fierce verbal exchanges” between protesters and counter-protesters earlier this month, barrels of “human waste” on site, possible fire code breaches such as a single point of exit and the encampment’s potential as a “magnet” for further clashes.

On top of a doubling of the security detail on the quad, McGill said it will likely have to spend more than $700,000 on an alternate venue for spring convocation ceremonies that are typically held on the grounds partially occupied by the protesters.

A Quebec Superior Court hearing on the injunction is slated to take place Monday.

McGill students began to set up tents two weeks ago, which now number more than 100 in a fenced-off corner of the quad. The demonstrators have demanded the university divest from companies they allege are “complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine” as the country’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip drags on.

Click to play video: 'Protesters return to University of Calgary campus after night of clashes'

Protesters return to University of Calgary campus after night of clashes

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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