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U of T seeks injunction order to clear pro-Palestinian protest as students, supporters rally



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Pro-Palestine demonstrators rally at the University of Toronto on May 27, 2024, after the university said it is seeking a court injunction to clear the weeks-long protest.Sammy Kogan/The Globe and Mail

The Monday morning deadline to clear a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Toronto was met with defiance from students and their allies, who held a large rally outside the university’s administration building to announce their intention to stay.

Hundreds of protesters including students, faculty and trade union members gathered near the site of the encampment to call on the university to listen to its demands. Students at the encampment, which has been in place since May 2, have called for the university to disclose its investments, divest from companies connected to the Israeli military and cut ties with academic institutions that operate in the occupied territories.

In a note to campus shortly after the expiry of an 8 a.m. deadline to vacate the encampment, U of T president Meric Gertler announced that the university’s lawyers are seeking an injunction in Ontario Superior Court.

Dr. Gertler said that in addition to pursuing the case in the courts, the university will continue to negotiate with encampment representatives in the hope of reaching an agreement. Other encampments at Canadian universities have come down in recent days following discussions between students and administration.

The two sides had a “long and productive” discussion Sunday and they intend to meet again Monday afternoon, Dr. Gertler said.

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

On Friday, the university posted copies of a notice of trespass at the site of the encampment. The notice states that the university will pursue consequences for those not in compliance at 8 a.m. Monday under university policies and the law.

The trespass notice said students who fail to leave by Monday morning could be subject to discipline, including suspension or a recommendation of expulsion. It also said faculty, librarians and staff may be subject to measures up to and including termination.

The University of Toronto faculty association has reacted with surprise and concern to what it described as a threat of mass termination.

On Monday, a few dozen people in purple vests emblazoned with the word faculty stood behind the speakers at a rally outside the Simcoe Hall administration building. One held a sign saying “Hands off our students.” Another sign said, “You can’t fire us all.”

The crowd was dotted with flags from labour unions, following a call from the Ontario Federation of Labour to rally with the students’ cause.

Erin Mackey, a fourth-year student and encampment organizer, told the crowd the university’s court action was paving the way for police to raid the encampment.

There was no sign of any increase to security nor any signs of police activity Monday.

Sara Rasikh, a master’s student, said the university claims to want to negotiate, but it is pursuing trespass notices and court injunctions against its students. The students have so far not accepted a university offer that would expedite a process to study the issues of divestment and disclosure.

“U of T continues to propose committees but we want commitments. We want divestment. We want disclosure. And we want it now,” Ms. Rasikh told the crowd.

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