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U of T files for court injunction as pro-Palestinian protesters defy eviction deadline

The University of Toronto says it has filed for a court injunction to evict pro-Palestinian protesters encamped on the school’s downtown campus.

U of T President Meric Gertler said in an online post Monday the school’s lawyers have requested the Ontario Superior Court of Justice hear the case on an expedited basis.

“In addition to pursuing this legal avenue to return King’s College Circle to the University community, we continue to engage in discussions with students representing those in the encampment,” Gertler said.

“We remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement and bring the unauthorized encampment to an end.”

Gertler’s latest update came after an 8 a.m. ET deadline for the encampment to be cleared passed without any indication the student-led demonstrators intend to leave.

Protesters and their supporters, including some university faculty and staff and members of the Ontario Federation of Labour, were holding a rally when Gertler’s statement was posted online.

The two sides spent Sunday in talks ostensibly aimed at peacefully ending the protest. Gertler said the negotiations were “long and productive” and that discussions would continue Monday.

University officials have previously said that no matter the outcome of the negotiations, demonstrators must vacate the school’s St. George campus.

Those in the camp were served with a trespass notice last week warning students involved in the protest could be suspended, while participating faculty or staff could be fired. The university said it was willing to take “all necessary legal steps” to clear the encampment.

Natalie Rothman, an Israeli-Canadian professor at the school who has participated in the weeks-long protest, said Monday she and other faculty will continue to support the encampment regardless of warnings from administrators.

“I think we are truly fighting here for the soul of the university. We are fighting for what a university really needs to look like,” she told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“The students have been teaching us for weeks now what a university that is true to its values, to its own core values and mission statement, looks like in terms of speaking truth, seeking truth, asking hard questions and demanding accountability,” Rothman said.

She added that any potential police involvement in clearing the encampment would be an “enormous stain on the university.”

The encampment was set up on May 2, part of a massive wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at post-secondary institutions in Canada and the United States.

Organizers called on the university to cut its ties with Israel, divest from companies profiting from Israel’s offensive in Gaza, and terminate partnerships with the country’s academic institutions deemed complicit in the war.

School administrators have already said U of T it will not end any partnerships with Israeli universities.

On Oct. 7, Hamas and other militants attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s subsequent offensive in Gaza against Hamas has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.

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