McGill asks police for help as pro-Palestinian encampment enters 4th day

Pro-Palestinian protesters remain on McGill University's lower field after setting up an encampment Saturday. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Pro-Palestinian protesters remain on McGill University's lower field after setting up an encampment Saturday. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

The president of McGill University says officials have called for police assistance after pro-Palestinian protesters refused to dismantle their encampment on the university's downtown Montreal campus.

In a statement sent to McGill staff and students Tuesday, McGill University president Deep Saini said the university is resorting to the police after officials "failed to reach a resolution" with protesters Monday.

"Encampments on campus property are outside of protected parameters, especially when they're presented as indefinite in term, and when many participants are not members of our university community," the statement reads.

Shortly before 4 p.m. Monday, a McGill security staff member gave a "final warning," to demonstrators who have been on the university's lower field since Saturday.

Protesters were told to pack their belongings and that they "have no right to be here" and would have to leave the area. The McGill security employee warned that if they didn't comply, Montreal police would be called.

Saini says the university has been in contact with the police since the onset of the encampment.

"Having to resort to police authority is a gut-wrenching decision for any university president," Saini said. "It is, by no means, a decision that I take lightly or quickly. In the present circumstances, however, I judged it necessary."

Lawyer Neil Oberman, who represents McGill students Gabriel Medvedovsky and Raihaana Adira, is set to ask a judge for a provisional injunction against the encampment on Tuesday afternoon. The injunction request, expected to be filed at the Montreal courthouse at 2 p.m., will target groups currently protesting on campus, according to Oberman. McGill University is named as an interested party in the case.

The plaintiffs are calling for five pro-Palestinian groups to be prevented from taking protest actions within 100 metres of 154 McGill buildings. In the document, they accuse Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights Concordia, Montreal4Palestine, Palestinian Youth Movement and Alliance4Palestine.QC of "wilfully and knowingly" pursuing "hostile activities under the guise of anonymity."

The plaintiffs allege the groups have "created an environment of hate on campus," which they say has made them uncomfortable to attend classes and exams. They also allege they have faced harassment and intimidation from the defendants.

The injunction request has not been filed yet and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

On Tuesday morning, a spokesperson for Montreal police said that "no crime is being committed" at the encampment and the situation is a civil matter. The spokesperson said officers will continue to monitor the demonstration and are ready to enforce a court injunction if it is granted.