Injunction hearing set for mid-June as U of T seeks to clear protest encampment

By The Canadian Press and Meredith Bond

The University of Toronto’s attempt to clear a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus will be heard by the Superior Court of Justice on June 19 and 20.

The university had asked the courts for a hearing prior to planned graduation ceremonies that are schedule to run between June 3 and 21, but Justice Markus Koehnen said the mid-June dates were the earliest the hearing could be to allow the respondents to answer their application.

The encampment is set up in Kings College Circle which is adjacent to Convocation Hall, where the ceremonies will be taking place.

In legal documents filed on Monday, the school asked the courts to authorize police action to remove protesters who refused orders to leave, while also arguing it was not interfering with students’ ability to engage in respectful discussion and debate.

Meanwhile, protesters reaffirmed their commitment to the encampment. “Having been threatened by the university with academic sanctions, including suspension and expulsion, having been threatened with arrest and police violence — despite all of this, despite all these threats being made, we remain,” said Erin Mackey, one of the encampment organizers.

“We’ve been clear from the very beginning that by virtue of being here, it does not warrant the University of Toronto calling the police on their own students,” she added.

Respondents will have until June 4 to deliver affidavit materials.

A number of groups sought intervener status in the matter during a case conference on Tuesday,

U of T president Meric Gertler said earlier this week, the school was asking a court for an expedited case conference while also continuing to negotiate with protesters.

“In addition to pursuing this legal avenue to return King’s College Circle to the university community, we continue to engage in discussions with students representing those in the encampment,” he wrote in a statement.

“We remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement and bring the unauthorized encampment to an end.”

The university filed a notice of motion in court aimed at bringing about an end to the encampment.

Among the relief sought, the university asked for an order authorizing police to “arrest and remove persons, objects and structures” who violate the terms of a court order. It also sought to prevent protesters from blocking access to university property or setting up fences, tents or other structures on campus.

The university argued the encampment has resulted in part of its campus not being available to other members to the school’s community or the public.

“The encampment raises serious health and safety concerns for the occupants, other members of the university community, and the public,” lawyers for the university wrote in legal documents.

The university said in its court filing that it has received “many concerning reports” about violence, property damage and discriminatory speech “within and surrounding the encampment area.” 

It said areas around the encampment have had reports of confrontations between protesters and counter-protesters, as well as antisemitic slurs, among other things.

University officials had issued a trespass notice on Friday ordering demonstrators to remove the encampment by 8 a.m. Monday.

The protesters, who set up tents in a large green space at the heart of the university’s downtown campus on May 2, were joined by faculty and labour groups for a rally outside the nearby Convocation Hall as the trespass deadline passed.

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