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U of T issues trespass notice as encampment organizers reject school’s offer

As it said it would, the University of Toronto issued a trespass notice to a pro-Palestinian encampment at 4 p.m. Friday.

Those gathered at the encampment now have until Monday at 8 a.m. to leave, before the school pursues “consequences under University policies and the law.”

Potential academic consequences include a five-year suspension or expulsion.

Occupying the “King’s College Circle has been and remains unauthorized,” said U of T in a news release announcing the trespass notice had been issued.

“The fundamental principle of inclusion — one that extends to physical space on our campuses — has been violated,” the university statement said.

A University of Toronto trespass notice is defaced with the words "We ain't reading all that free Palestine."
A University of Toronto trespass notice is pictured shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday, May 24, 2024. (Tyler Cheese/CBC)

On Thursday afternoon, U of T president Meric Gertler gave protesters 24 hours to accept the school’s latest offer and dismantle the encampment or the university would issue a trespass notice.

The encampment’s spokespeople responded Friday morning, saying the school has a “predetermined outcome” in mind when it comes to the demonstration — now in its fourth week.

The latest offer from the U of T administration would not end partnerships with Israeli universities, but it invites students to attend the university’s business board of governing council’s meeting on June 19 to present their demands. It would also establish a working group to consider options for disclosure and increased transparency of investments.

“That is an ultimatum,” said encampment organizer Kalliopé Anvar McCall, a fourth-year U of T student in diaspora studies, at a news conference at the encampment Friday morning.

“They’re trying to force us to accept these outrageous terms by threatening to clear us out at the same time.”

WATCH | Pro-Palestinian organizers reject U of T offer: 

Pro-Palestinian organizers reject latest offer from U of T admin

4 hours ago

Duration 6:14

Student organizers representing the pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Toronto rejected the school administration’s latest offer. As CBC’s Chris Glover reports, the university has said it will issue a trespass notice if the offer isn’t accepted by 4 p.m. Friday.

Dozens of students, staff and faculty have been occupying a green space at King’s College Circle on the university’s St. George Campus in downtown Toronto since May 2. They’ve set up tents and canopies in solidarity with other encampments at universities throughout North America, calling for an end to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Fourth-year undergrad and encampment spokesperson Erin Mackey speaks to reporters in a pro-Palestinian encampment on the main campus of the University of Toronto on May 24, 2024.
Fourth-year undergrad and encampment spokesperson Erin Mackey speaks to reporters in a pro-Palestinian encampment on the main campus of the University of Toronto on May 24, 2024. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

U of T Occupy for Palestine is calling for the post-secondary institution to reveal a complete list of its endowment’s investments and divest from assets that “sustain Israeli apartheid, occupation and illegal settlement of Palestine.”

They are also demanding the school cut ties with Israeli academic institutions that operate within the occupied West Bank, which the university has said more than once it will not do.

Organizers criticized the university for its negotiation tactics — particularly, speaking to media outlets, including CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, rather than directly with U of T Occupy for Palestine.

LISTEN | U of T president speaks on Metro Morning:

Metro Morning13:58U of T President says encampment must end, but talks can continue

Meric Gertler, president of U of T says the pro-Palestenian protests must end by convocation and the university is willing to look at divestment and disclosure if the protesters agree to their offer.

Division over campus safety

On Metro Morning Friday, Gertler said he hopes protesters “will see what we’re putting on the table here is a very fair and considered offer.”

“Nothing is more fundamental in many ways to our society” than the right to protest, he said, but “we have to balance some other rights, particularly rights of inclusion.”

“The tension that has been generated by the continued presence of the encampment has reached a point where we feel now is the time to end the encampment,” he said.

As of Thursday, Gertler said the university had received 38 reports of harassment, discrimination and “hateful speech and hateful actions” as a result of the encampment.

Aerial (drone) images of the Pro-Palestinian protest encampment at University of Toronto's King's College Circle.
Aerial (drone) images of the pro-Palestinian encampment at University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle taken hours before the deadline imposed by the university to try to end the demonstration. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)

Hillel Ontario, a group that advocates on behalf of Jewish students, raised concerns when the protest first began about demonstrators chanting, “All the Zionists are racists” and chalk on the ground reading “Go back to Europe.”

“The university has an obligation to make sure its campus is safe for all students,” said Jay Solomon, Hillel Ontario’s chief advancement officer.

“Students are feeling uncomfortable, they’re feeling unsafe and they’re looking for the university to take some action,” he said from nearby the encampment on Friday. 

“The fact that the university is even negotiating with this group is problematic,” Solomon said.

Student Erin Mackey, a spokesperson for U of T Occupy for Palestine, told reporters that in her 23 days in the encampment, “the only time I felt unsafe is when there are agitators who come here with the intention of being and saying incredibly horrific things to our Jewish students who are here.”

LISTEN | Encampment spokesperson speaks on Metro Morning:

Metro Morning9:31‘We want commitments not committees’: U of T encampment spokesperson says university offer is not enough

Erin Mackey, spokesperson for U of T Occupy for Palestine, says threat of trespass notices and U of T’s offer may not be enough to get them to move the encampment.

If the university wants to clear the encampment, Mackey said officials can meet the protesters’ demands.

“The fact that U of T is willing to call the Toronto police on this encampment — or threaten so, in this current moment — says a lot about where they’re at, that they are unwilling to stop funding a genocide, stop investing in bombs and instead call police on their own students.”

Speaking on Metro Morning, Gertler said the university is “doing our level best to avoid police involvement.”

In a news release Friday afternoon, Amnesty International Canada said it is “gravely concerned” by the trespass notice.

“Law enforcement, if called to the encampment, must prioritize the protection and facilitation of the rights to peaceful protest and free expression,” it said.

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