U of T pro-Palestinian encampment will remain until university divests from Israeli government: protestors

One week into the pro-Palestinian encampment at U of T and protesters say their demands have yet to be discussed with the University. Shauna Hunt reports.

Pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Toronto say they will remain at the encampment set up at King’s College Circle on campus until the university divests from the Israeli government amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

“We will not move, we will not be pushed aside and we will not rest until our demands are met and the University of Toronto is held accountable. We will not be satisfied with any false solutions. We demand action,” said Serene Paul, a U of T student participating in the protest.”

The protest is about to enter its second week since students arrived last Thursday to dismantle a portion of the fence that had been erected by the university to prevent the type of encampments that have sprung up at other universities across the country and in the United States.

The demonstrators are calling on the university to sever financial ties with the Israeli government and for a ceasefire in the ongoing war in Gaza.

“We demand full disclosure of all investments held by the university including the endowment and financial holdings. Transparency is crucial for accountability and as students we deserve financial disclosure,” added Paul.

“We want this institution to listen to us to acknowledge the gravity of the situation at hand and to take meaningful steps toward justice.”

Protesters have pointed out that the university has previously divested from South African apartheid in the 1980s and divested in fossil fuels in 2021.

In a statement issued Wednesday morning, the university said it is continuing to correspond with student representatives for the encampment and is currently focused on its “responsibility for the health, safety, and security of our students.”

The administration said it looks forward to resolving those issues so it can “move to the substantive discussions that both participants in the encampment and the university want to have.”

The protestors said Wednesday the administration has not engaged in any conversations regarding their demands.

“In this case, the University of Toronto is unclear, we would like to remind them: this is a protest. We are no longer interested in conversations. We are demanding commitments,” said Erin Mackey, another protestor. “If the administration wants this process to end, we have great news for them. It’s a two-step process that we wrap up immediately — disclose and divest.”

All three campuses remain open as summer classes are ongoing and the school anticipates that convocation will proceed as planned.

Similar protest camps have been set up at several other Canadian university campuses in B.C. and at Montreal’s McGill University as well as at scores of post-secondary schools in the United States.

The International Court of Justice is investigating whether Israel has committed acts of genocide in the ongoing war in Gaza, with any ruling expected to take years. Israel has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and accused the court of bias.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza was launched after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 men women and children hostage. The Israeli offensive has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.

With files from The Canadian Press

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