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Protesters to defend U of T encampment in Ontario court today

Lawyers for a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at the University of Toronto are set to present their case today in an Ontario court as the university seeks an injunction to clear the weeks-long demonstration.

The hearing began Wednesday with lawyers for the university arguing the protesters have seized control of private property and are restricting the community’s access to the area known as King’s College Circle.

They said many in the community have reported feeling unsafe or unwelcome on campus as a result of the protest, and that the encampment has caused irreparable harm.

In documents filed earlier this week, lawyers for the protesters say the school’s claims of irreparable harm are based on mischaracterizations of the encampment as violent and antisemitic.

They also argue the discomfort of those who disagree with the protest does not trump their protected rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.

The encampment was set up on May 2. The university issued a trespass notice weeks later and filed its application for an injunction soon after.

The school is asking the court to authorize police action to remove protesters who refuse to leave, and to bar protesters from blocking access to university property or setting up fences, tents or other structures on campus.

Representatives for the encampment have said they won’t leave until the school agrees to their demands, which include disclosing and divesting from investments in companies profiting from Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Both sides have been meeting to try to negotiate an agreement outside of the court process. Protesters said their latest offer was rejected Tuesday, while the university said Wednesday it had not yet received a response to its counteroffer.

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