U of T anti-Israel protesters dismantle encampment before police arrive
U of T anti-Israel protesters dismantle encampment before police arrive

The University of Toronto’s anti-Israel encampment quickly dismantled most of the structures and evacuated the area an hour before police were set to arrive.

The Toronto Police Service issued numerous warnings, urging protesters to leave by 6:00 pm on Wednesday to avoid any enforcement.

One of the warnings issued in a post to X said that refusing to leave would disobey a court order and obstruct police in their duty to enforce the injunction.  

“Both are criminal offences. Having a criminal record has serious long-term consequences. Please leave voluntarily to avoid police action,” wrote the Toronto Police.

The warnings followed an injunction granted the day prior, which gave police the authority to arrest and remove anyone who refused to comply with the court order by the designated time.

Anti-Israel protesters who refused to leave peacefully in Calgary after being trespassed were dispersed by police equipped with guns containing rubber bullets, using riot shields, bicycles, and flashbangs.

The encampment was established on May 2, and the university issued a trespass notice soon after. The protesters remained beyond the initial deadline, prompting the university to request an expedited injunction order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

“This encampment is just one tactic, and we are prepared to employ as many as necessary to achieve our demands,” said Sara Rasikh, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, at Tuesday’s press conference.

OccupyUofT held another press conference on Wednesday, just before dismantling their encampment.

The group said in their Instagram post that it was the closing press conference, “but make no mistake… We will return.”

Mohammad Yassin, a recent graduate of the university, said that despite the encampment being dismantled, “this is just the beginning.”

He and other organizers spoke, often interrupted by chants such as “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”

The American Jewish Committee defines the hateful slogan as antisemitic, as it symbolizes Palestinian control over the entire territory of Israel’s borders. An e-petition sponsored by Independent MP Kevin Vuong argued that this chant, among others present at the press conference, was genocidal and antisemitic, by wilfully promoting hatred and violence towards Jewish people.

Other chants featured at the encampment included one protester chanting “Heil Hitler.” The same protester said that he wished Hitler “murdered all you guys. If you guys were gone the world would have been a better place,” he said. 

The University of Toronto issued an update describing the injunction, validating that the request was consistent with the university’s policies and Charter values. 

The injunction concluded that the encampment was inconsistent with freedom of expression, as it excluded others from the Front Campus. Also, protesters can still protest anywhere on campus between 7:00 am and 11:00 pm, assuming they do not camp, set up structures, or block entry to university property. 

“The injunction does not prevent protesters from expressing their views — rather, the injunction prevents the protesters from silencing other voices,” wrote the university. 

The Front Campus, where the encampment took place, will remain closed for several weeks for “rehabilitation work.” The university hopes that it will reopen by summer to be used by the entire community.

Despite dismantling the encampment, one OccupyUofT leader said that negotiations with the university are ongoing. 

The protest continued after the encampment was dismantled, as hundreds of students marched on campus, away from the initial encampment site.

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