Police arrested 5 during take down of pro-Palestinian encampment at UCalgary

No camping allowed - that’s the message from UCalgary to Pro-Palestinian protesters after the first day of protests ended in flash bangs and arrests. Jillian Code reports.

By CityNews Staff

Calgary police are releasing more details about arrests made Thursday night when officers in riot gear broke up a pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Calgary campus.

Police chief Mark Neufeld, speaking from police headquarters on Friday afternoon, says five people were arrested and three were given violation tickets. He says more charges could be laid.

“This isn’t something we enjoy doing,” he said. “It is something that is very necessary when individuals refuse to comply with lawful direction.”

Officers were first made aware of the student-led protest around 6:30 a.m. Thursday, when campus security reported several protestors had begun setting up tents on the south lawn of MacEwan Hall.

At it’s peak, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) estimates there were 150 people participating. Protestors were asked to leave by the university and police, and refused, police say.

Officers were able to get an estimated 60 people to leave the area, but dozens remained.

Neufeld says it was clear by about 8 p.m. that people who remained at the encampment did not intend to comply with a trespass order. He claims some of the participants demonstrated violent behavior, but no injuries were reported.

“I’m proud of the way our officers handled the situation,” he says. “Ultimately, escalating in tactics only in response to an increase in resistance.”

CPS claims remaining protestors threw projectiles at officers who responded by using flash bangs and pepper balls.

Around 11:15 p.m., police arrested those who remained at the site. All of them have subsequently been released.

Premier applauds police, NDP call for investigation

Premier Danielle Smith was asked about the situation at the province’s two biggest post-secondary schools during a press conference in Calgary Friday.

“We’ve been watching what’s been happening and it’s already out of control in Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere, and the universities can’t allow it to get out of control and they can’t allow hate speech,” she said. “There are reasonable ways to protest and the University of Calgary in particular has said that trespassing and camping is not acceptable on their grounds and I understand that they removed the encampments yesterday.”

She said the universities have to take the lead on dealing with the protests and encampments, as it is their private property.

“We’re on standby to provide any assistance, should they ask,” Smith said.

The NDP opposition are asking for an investigation into the actions of police, which they say appeared disproportionate to the actions of the protestors.

The party is looking for Alberta’s police watchdog to look into what happened.

“What is particularly troubling to me about this incident is that when right-wing extremists blockaded an Alberta border crossing and shut down hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, it was allowed to go on for two weeks,” says NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley in a statement.

“I am incredibly troubled that the response to people voicing their opinions on human rights was so much harsher.”

Divulge and divest

The group of protestors were 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).”

They also want 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,” organizer Julia Lee, a third-year political science student., told CityNews on Thursday.

“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.

Lee previously said the group planned to stay until all of it’s demands had been met and that the intention was to come to a resolution peacefully.

Chatter on social media indicates there may be a resurgence of the encampment on a different part of campus Friday.

A similar event in Edmonton, at the University of Alberta, is ramping up Friday, and so far, has seen no intervention from campus security or police.

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