Days after pro-Palestine protesters removed from MUN, they're back

Devoney Ellis was one of three protestors who were arrested on Friday night for trespassing at Memorial University.
Devoney Ellis, one of three protesters arrested Friday night for trespassing at Memorial University, says the police presence was intimidating. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Days after a pro-Palestine group was forced to leave a Memorial University building and three students were charged with trespassing, students have returned to protest.

About 70 people gathered outside the Arts and Administration building on the St. John's campus Monday morning, some holding signs and waving Palestinian flags. Protesters have hung a sign across the building's entrance that reads, "We Will Not Stop. We Will Not Rest." By late Monday morning, most of the protesters had dispersed, with a handful remaining inside the lobby.

On Friday, MUN asked MUN Students For Palestine protesters to leave the Arts and Administration building. While most students left, others did not, and three students were charged with trespassing.

Devoney Ellis, who was one of the three people charged, said campus enforcement and patrol officers arrived Friday evening and began taking down tents. When police arrived at 10 p.m. NT, they told protesters they would be arrested and charged with trespassing if they did not leave the building within half an hour, she said.

"Three of us stayed behind because we felt that we needed to, that this protest was really important and it needed to be ongoing," Ellis told CBC News.

"Impeding our right to protest wasn't going to be just a welcomed thing. So we sat there with the photos of the martyrs until they started removing us at about 10:40."

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers led them out, one by one, and they were read their rights and had their information taken, she said.

Ellis said it was intimidating to be sitting in the lobby with five campus enforcement and patrol officers and five RNC officers for three students.

Given warning

Memorial University provost and academic vice-president Jennifer Lokash said the university feels it's been patient with the protest, which began in late May. A week and a half ago, she said, the university tried to reach a compromise with students that would see them leave the building at night but it didn't amount to anything.

On Thursday, she said, protesters were informed through a lawyer they couldn't continue to live in a building meant for work and study. Things escalated Friday when workers were sent home due to concerns about harassment and intimidation.

"So we feel we gave students a lot of fair warning that they were expected to leave the premises at the closing time on Friday evening," said Lokash.

Concessions not enough

Among the protesters' demands is that the university divest itself from investments in weapons manufacturers and companies on what's known as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions — or BDS — list.

Approximately 70 people gathered outside Memorial University's Arts and Administration building in St. John's on Monday morning after a pro-Palestine protest group was closed on Friday.
About 70 people gathered outside Memorial University's Arts and Administration building in St. John's on Monday morning after a pro-Palestine group was shut down Friday. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Lokash said less than one-third of one per cent of MUN's investments is in companies on the list, but Ellis said the university needs to do better.

"I just want MUN admin to know that being invested in genocide is not a win. Admitting that you're invested in genocide is not a win. We didn't take that as a win," said Ellis.

Nicolas Keough, the external affairs director of MUN's students' union, was also in the lobby Friday night. He said the protest group will continue its work.

"We will continue to apply pressure and make sure that the university administration is held accountable for their actions, and that includes remaining invested in war crimes."

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