Montreal police dismantle Victoria Square anti-Israel encampment 
Montreal police dismantle Victoria Square anti-Israel encampment 

Montreal police dismantled a controversial anti-Israel encampment that had been occupying the city’s iconic Victoria Square for the past two weeks.

As previously reported by True North, the “Al-Soumoud popular camp” was set up by far-left activists in a bid to pressure the province’s pension fund to divest from the Jewish state and to force the Quebec government to close its Tel Aviv office.

The encampment differed from others seen in Canada, as it did not take place on a university campus.

Montreal police arrived at the site of the encampment shortly after 5 am Friday to clear out the protesters. According to Radio Canada, protesters left without resisting.

Later in the morning, city crews removed materials that had been left behind.

During its two-week tenure, the encampment saw hateful messages, attempts to destroy a historic statue of the former queen and counter-protests from frustrated Montreal residents. 

Tarps seen at the encampment condoned Palestinian violence as “resistance.” One tarp read “Peace is the white man’s word, resistance is ours.” 

Activists also vandalized and attempted to topple a statue of Queen Victoria, the square’s namesake. They were stopped by police.

When asked about the attempt to topple the statue, encampment organizer Benoit Allard said, “our struggle is an anti-colonial struggle” and that “the statue in question is a statue of Queen Victoria, which is a colonial symbol.”

Allard refused to confirm or deny if his crew was involved in the failed toppling attempt. 

Around one hundred Montreal residents then showed up on Jun. 25th to protest the presence of the encampment and call for it to be cleared out.

Photos taken by CBC showed people holding signs saying “Enough is enough” and “Montreal taken hostage… liberate our public spaces.”

Montreal mayor Valerie Plante reacted to the dismantling of the encampment on X.

“It’s a public safety decision that wasn’t taken lightly, but this delicate operation was carried out calmly and cooperatively,” said Plante.

“The right to protest for a cause is a fundamental right, but it cannot interfere with the right to safety and free movement in public space,” she added. “The encampment did not allow free circulation and free access to the population.”

Plante noted that “just as we can’t accept as a society that public space becomes a hospital or open-air housing, we can’t accept that public space becomes the headquarters of a cause, whatever the cause may be.”

Plante was, however, criticized by both the provincial government and municipal politicians for having allowed the encampment to remain in place for two weeks.

“It’s deplorable that it took so much pressure,” said Montreal city councillor Aref Salem. “The chaotic management of these occupations is proof that the mayor has lost control of Montreal.”

Quebec’s public safety minister François Bonnardel said he was “delighted” to see the encampment removed, and said he hopes “the same treatment will be applied to other existing and future encampments.”

Montreal’s McGill University continues to be occupied by an anti-Israel encampment.

The McGill administration now hopes that the encampment on their campus will also be cleared.

In a statement to True North, McGill University president Deep Saini said, “while the Square Victoria encampment is being dismantled after less than two weeks, the encampment on our downtown campus has remained on lower field for more than two months.”

He added that “the encampment on our campus has spawned hateful and threatening graffiti on a multitude of occasions” and that it “presents major safety risks including issues related to hygiene, security, and fire safety.”

Saini says McGill now has “every expectation that the city and SPVM will remain consistent in their approach, and act swiftly to remove the encampment here as well.”

McGill University is currently seeking an injunction to clear its encampment.

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