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Pro-Palestinian protesters dismantle encampment at University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa says pro-Palestinian protesters have dismantled an encampment that had been on campus for two months.

University president Jacques Frémont said the encampment site is currently in a “deplorable state” and the school will be restoring the area, accusing demonstrators of trashing it before leaving.

“We condemn the acts of vandalism committed by the demonstrators before leaving the site,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Over the past two months, we have managed the risks around the unauthorized encampment on university property while maintaining an open dialogue with student organizers in good faith to find peaceful ways to end it.”

A student-led group representing the protesters said on social media that the university didn’t meet their demands, including the acknowledgment of anti-Palestinian racism and divesting its investments in Israel.

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“The university responded by stalling, speaking to us in bureaucratic jargon, and dismissing our very reasonable demands altogether,” the group said.

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The group said the encampment is just one of their tactics, and they will continue to confront the administration.

Frémont said the university will uphold academic freedom and freedom of expression.

“We have heard the protesters’ message. We fully acknowledge the pain caused by the violence unfolding in the Middle East since October of last year,” he said.

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“That pain is indeed felt by many members of our community. We also know that the tensions that the conflict is causing on our campus and in our society will persist.”

Last week, demonstrators cleared a two-month-old encampment at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus after a judge granted the school’s request for an injunction that would have allowed police to step in to remove and arrest protesters who stayed.

Pro-Palestinian protesters also dismantled their encampments at two southern Ontario universities over the weekend.

The encampments at the University of Waterloo and Western University were cleared roughly two months after they were established as part of a broader movement calling on academic institutions to cut ties with Israel.

A group representing the Western University protesters said their decision was made after “careful consideration,” and that they would continue to push for divestment through other means.

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At the University of Waterloo, a student-led group representing the protesters said they decided to “voluntarily decamp” on Sunday night in what they called a strategic decision.

The group said it will now target the university’s investments and partnerships with Israel, which it said were disclosed as a result of the encampment protest.

University president Vivek Goel said the encampment was peacefully dismantled and the school was withdrawing a lawsuit and injunction proceedings it had recently launched related to the protest.

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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