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U of T protesters have until 6 p.m. to clear encampment before police can legally move in

The clock is ticking for protesters at a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Toronto, who are now deciding whether to adhere to a court order to remove tents by 6 p.m. on Wednesday — or face police doing it for them.

The deadline was introduced Tuesday, after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted an injunction to the university to clear the encampment.

Protesters set up tents at U of T’s downtown campus on May 2. Organizers have been demanding the university divest from companies profiting from Israel’s offensive in Gaza and end partnerships with Israeli academic institutions they say are complicit in the war.

Despite the court ruling, it’s unclear exactly what will happen when the deadline comes. 

Demonstrators say they plan to hold a rally at the encampment at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, but they’ve yet to make a decision about whether to dismantle the encampment themselves.

U of T master’s student Sara Rasikh, a spokesperson for the encampment, told reporters Wednesday morning that they’re trying to make a decision by consensus.

“We, as a community, as students who have put our bodies on the line for over 63 days, are still in dialogue and in conversation,” Rasikh said. “That being said, we are visibly removing valuables from the encampment.”

By noon Wednesday, demonstrators had packed up a number of tents, leaving bare patches on the grassy lawn of King’s College Circle on the front campus. On the grass in the middle of the encampment, a message was visible in large, painted letters: “WE WILL RETURN.”

Students on a university campus open a gap in a temporary fence to carry an apple crate out of an encampment on a sunny day
Students remove items from the pro-Palestinian encampment on the front campus of the University of Toronto. Demonstrators said Wednesday morning they’re still deciding whether to adhere to an injunction ordering them to clear out by 6 p.m. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada)

If tents are still in place at 6 p.m., the court has given Toronto police authority to arrest and remove anyone who refuses to comply with the court order.

On X, formerly Twitter, Toronto police said Tuesday they will enforce the court’s order, and “we hope that protesters will leave voluntarily to avoid police action.”

Police said they won’t disclose “operational details” but the court order states “police action is at our discretion.”

A social media post reads: TPS will enforce the court’s order. We hope protestors will leave voluntarily to avoid police action. The 6 p.m. deadline applies to the protestors. While we won’t disclose operational details, the court order states that police action is at our discretion. We are finalizing those details.
Toronto Police Service posted this message to X, formerly Twitter, hours after the court ordered the injunction Tuesday night. (Toronto Police Service/X)

Erin Mackey, a spokesperson for UofT Occupy Palestine, the group leading the encampment, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning Wednesday that she is worried about the prospect of police violence. 

Mackey says university president Meric Gertler should have met with demonstrators before seeking an injunction. 

“The least they could do is, you know, meet with their students and listen to our demands,” she said. “Unfortunately U of T, instead of divesting, has called the police on their own students. That’s appalling.”

Mackey said even if camp is dispersed, students, faculty and staff will continue to demonstrate until their demands are met.

“I do absolutely believe that U of T will divest,” she said. “And it is not a question of if, it is a question of when.”

WATCH | Encampment spokesperson speaks on CBC Radio

U of T’s goal ‘to stifle protests on campus,’ encampment spokesperson says

2 hours ago

Duration 10:15

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that pro-Palestinian protesters must take down tents on the University of Toronto campus by Wednesday at 6 p.m. Erin Mackey, spokesperson for U of T Occupy for Palestine, told Metro Morning guest host Molly Thomas “it’s appalling” that the university has “called the police on their own students.”

The university declined an interview request from Metro Morning on Wednesday. However, in a statement Tuesday,  Gertler said the school “welcomes vigorous debate and protest.”

Under the ruling, protesters are still able to demonstrate on campus, but cannot camp, erect structures or block entrances to university property. Per the ruling, protesting on campus will no longer be permitted between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Gertler said the ruling “prevents any one group from asserting control of a shared space at the university in order to promote a particular view and deprive others of the freedom to express opposing viewpoints.”

In addition to legal consequences, Gertler said anyone who does not adhere to the 6 p.m. deadline will be subject to consequences under university policy.

Three Jewish organizations that intervened in the injunction case say they were disappointed with the court’s ruling and continue to support the students’ right to protest.

In a statement Tuesday from Independent Jewish Voices Canada, the Jewish Faculty Network and the United Jewish People’s Order, Karen Spector, a lawyer for the coalition, said the court’s ruling “confirms the legitimacy and power of collaborative nonviolent resistance to bring attention to the devastation on Palestinians in Gaza.”

The coalition said the actions of demonstrators at the encampment were neither violent nor antisemitic.

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