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Protest encampment cleared by Edmonton police early Saturday morning

A protest encampment set up on the University of Alberta campus was cleared early Saturday morning by Edmonton police.

In an update issued early Saturday, police sad the action “follows repeated notice to encampment participants by the university that their activities violate university policy and its Trespass to Premises Act.

“Final notice was provided to protestors by the university at 4:35 a.m., on May 11, 2024,” it added. “Following this notice, EPS officers arrived on site and protestors were warned again to leave, and following this, protestors were escorted from university property.”

EPS said three people were arrested.

“Charges laid include assaulting a peace officer, trespassing and obstruction. None of the three individuals arrested are U of A students;” it added.

On the @university4palestine.yeg Instagram page, a 7:30 a.m. posting said that there had been “multiple injuries”, adding “No critical injuries reported that we know of.”

The incident came after a camp started forming Thursday on the university’s north campus and grew overnight.

The encampments followed a pattern of protests that have been unfolding at university campuses across North America in recent weeks, from Columbia University in New York to UCLA in Los Angeles.

The University of Alberta issued an update Saturday from its president and vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan.

U OF A Statement:

“On May 9, an encampment was set up in the Quad on North Campus. This morning almost all of the occupants of the encampment peacefully dispersed following a third and final reading to them of a trespass notice. At the time the encampment cleared, there were approximately 40 tents and 50 people. To the best of our knowledge, fewer than 25 per cent of the occupants were University of Alberta students.

“The Edmonton Police Service assisted with the enforcement of the trespassing violation under the Trespass to Premises Act. It became critical to enforce the order after communications with the group were not successful and escalating actions put the university community’s safety at risk.

“The vast majority of those present complied with the police direction and decamped peacefully from university property. Unfortunately two individuals without any connection to the University of Alberta did not comply with the request to vacate and they were removed. The police report no injuries. 

“From the outset, the University of Alberta has been clear that violation of the law or policies of the university goes beyond the parameters of freedom of expression. We have been explicit that the safety of our community is foremost in our decision-making.

“Over the past two days, we repeatedly informed the group of the procedures for demonstrations and protests on university campuses, both in writing and verbally. We repeatedly informed protesters that they are free to protest on university grounds providing there are no temporary structures (including tents or barricades) and the protesters do not stay overnight.

“The size of the group grew quickly. Of great concern, some members of the group brought in wood pallets, materials known to be used as barricade-making materials — actions that are counter to peaceful, law-abiding protests. The fire inspector also declared the presence of these pallets a fire hazard. 

“As other institutions faced similar situations over the past weeks, we have witnessed how quickly they can escalate and become volatile. Overnight protests are often accompanied by serious violence and larger crowds amplify those inherent risks — especially as they attract counter-protestors or outside agitators.

“I want to be clear that approved, peaceful protests are welcome on our university campuses — but they must also proceed in accordance with the university’s policies. And they cannot violate the law or public safety regulations.

“I know the last two days have been particularly challenging for many in the university’s diverse community. The activity on our campus today was not taken lightly and there was no easy path forward for anyone involved.

“Our commitment to the safety of our community must remain our top priority. Every University of Alberta student, faculty and staff member has the right to feel secure and welcomed while studying, researching, working or learning on our campuses.”

This is a developing story that will be updated throughout the day as more information becomes available.

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