Police in riot gear break up pro-Palestinian encampment protest at UCalgary

By CityNews Staff

Police moved in to break up a pro-Palestinian encampment that was erected on the University of Calgary campus Thursday morning, saying the demonstrators risk being charged for trespassing if they attempt to stay overnight.

The Calgary Police Service (CPS), in a social media post on Thursday evening, warned of possible arrests for demonstrators who were refusing to leave the campus lawn which was home to several tents throughout the day.

“Protestors at the university have been notified by (campus) security personnel that they are trespassing on private property,” reads a police post on X, adding that officers were on campus “to make protestors aware of their rights and responsibilities.”

A separate post about 20 minutes later said “protestors in violation of trespass are now subject to charge and removal,” and advised people to stay away from the encampment area.

Video posted on social media showed officers in riot gear tearing down makeshift fencing and tents prior to protesters leaving peacefully

By 11 p.m., CPS said officers were still on campus working to remove a small number of people who had yet to leave.

In an earlier statement to CityNews, CPS said at around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, university security called police to report that “several” protestors had begun setting up tents on the south lawn of MacEwan Hall.

Police had said they were working with the school to resolve the situation.

In a statement, the school says the encampment crosses the line.

“We are aware that a small number of tents have been set up on campus,” it said. “We are engaging with the individuals involved however, temporary structures and overnight protests are not permitted.

“Members of the campus community are free to protest but they are not free to camp.”

In a social media post, a group that identifies itself as UCalgary’s ‘Students Demand Divestment’ called those in support of the movement to gather on the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) Quad beginning at 5 a.m. Thursday, with the plan to stay indefinitely.

The group is calling for several actions from the university, including a commitment to full disclosure and regular updates about the post-secondary’s investments and donations, and the termination of “investments involved in surveillance, military technologies, oppression of Indigenous peoples, and any corporations linked to regimes under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

It also wants an academic boycott of institutions it says are participating in the occupation of Palestine, and for “robust” support to be provided to Palestinian students and others facing discrimination through scholarships and mental health resources.

Finally, the group is demanding UCalgary “officially recognize and condemn the Palestinian genocide and Israel’s actions, adopt a definition of Anti-Palestinian Racism, and enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards it.”

“We are a group of students who decided to start an encampment, like many other student encampments across the world, in opposition of our institution’s investment — direct and indirect — of the state of Israel which is currently responsible for the genocide of Palestinians,” said organizer Julia Lee, a third-year political science student.

“We urge the university to demonstrate its commitment to ethical practices and human rights by responding and addressing these demands as soon as possible.”

Calgary’s encampment protest followed those at McGill University, the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia, and Columbia University and UCLA in the U.S., where participants have asked for similar actions from school officials.

Just before 9 a.m. Thursday, there were at least half a dozen tents set up in the school’s quad.

Lee says the group plans to remain peaceful.

“We have great confidence in the people in our encampment that we will remain peaceful, all we ask is the university institution disclose and divest in Israel and other institutions respond to their student body,” she said. “We know that we are not alone, we are joined by hundreds of other students, not only just in Canada but the United States and all over the world.

“Honestly, the only feeling we have is just this great urgent desire for this issue in Gaza to be resolved.”

Listen to CityNews 660 for the latest on this developing story.

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