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Students staying put on uOttawa’s campus as pro-Palestinian encampment continues

It’s another day of staying sleeping in a tent on the University of Ottawa’s campus for Ayham Hakimi.

“We have to be here. I believe it’s our obligation from all of us,” he said.

The uOttawa student has been camping out for days in front of Tabaret Hall as part of what organizers are calling a peaceful student-led protest. It’s his way of showing support for his friends and loved ones directly affected by the ongoing war in Gaza.

A demonstration that began Monday turned into an encampment on Tuesday evening, after organizers say they were not being heard by the university’s administration. On Saturday, there were at least 60 tents set up on the lawn. 

“I lived in Palestine for five years, so I lived in Jerusalem. Everything has changed,” he said.

“That’s what they all tell me. They feel like life is just not the same at all. And so it’s quite difficult for them to even just process what’s going on there.”

Similar protests are taking place throughout Canada and the United States. Groups of students are demanding universities end its investment in companies and organizations with ties to Israel.

“Putting pressure on our institutions will put pressure on our government,” said INSAF (Integrity Not Spite Against Falastin) president Sumayya Kheireddine, one of the groups organizing the encampment.

“We are ready to be here until we get what we want. Our demands are clear and we are hear to stay until they are met.”

Organizers say the majority camping out are uOttawa students, but Saturday saw more people joining their cause. Local Palestinian coalitions led a march from the Canadian human rights monument to the encampment.

MPP Sarah Jama also spoke at the rally.

“I’m here to remind you to hold your ground and I will hold my ground with you,” said the Ontario legislator who was recently banned from returning to chamber for one day after refusing to remove her keffiyah at Queen’s Park.

While safety has been a concern for some Ottawa residents, those passing nearby say they’re okay with the demonstration.

“I’m from Kanata,” said one passerby. “I came in today just to drop off some supplies.”

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it as long as it’s not disrupting,” said a uOttawa student.

“We still have Tabaret Hall here that we can walk through.”

CTV Ottawa reached out to the uOttawa Jewish Association, the Chabad Student Network and the University of Ottawa for a statement, but did not receive a response.

Earlier this week, the university says they are committed to protecting freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully. They say their priority is on the safety and wellbeing of all members of the community.

“We’re willing to stay as long as it takes until the university responds to our demands,” said Hakimi.



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