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Encampments 'will not be tolerated' for pro-Palestinian demonstration: uOttawa

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The University of Ottawa (uOttawa) says it supports the freedom of expression, but encampments and occupations "will not be tolerated" as a pro-Palestinian demonstration takes place on campus.

With the death toll mounting in Gaza, uOttawa's Palestinian Students Association organized a sit-in in front of Tabaret Hall on Monday from noon to 9 p.m. to demand the school cut ties with defence and security companies that supply weapons to Israel.

Organizers say the demonstration is taking place in solidarity with American universities, where schools have moved to shut down pro-Palestinian encampments and hundreds of students have been arrested.

"We are committed to fight for Palestinian liberation and demand that the university divest from all aiding in the genocide, occupation and fear mongering trying to silence their students," the student group said on Instagram.

Palestinian Student Association President Samar Odeh said Monday they want more transparency from the university.

"We want to know what exactly uOttawa is investing into the Israeli occupation and how we can take steps to halt those investments and to look into other investments that are not at the expense of the Palestinians in Gaza and all over occupied Palestine," Odeh said.  

Integrity Not Spite Against Falastin (INSAF) member Ben Maliketh said, "We're demanding our university to divest from any and all corporations that are in violation of international law and that may be profiting from the ongoing genocide and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We're hoping that through this sit in, it'll hopefully bring the university to the table to discuss with their students what's, to them, a really important issue."

Student Amjad Alghamyan says some of his peers have faced repercussions from the university following pro-Palestinian rallies. He too is asking for transparency in how the school reprimands students.

"If someone is inciting hate, they should be accountable, but what I'm asking for is for the school to show us what their process is - show us how you are doing justice and we would be okay with that," he said.

uOttawa's associate vice-president of student affairs Eric Bercier said in a news release Sunday that the university is aware of the demonstration.

"As always, our institution supports and protects the right to peaceful protest as a cornerstone of both our university mission and our democratic life," Bercier writes, in part.

"Nevertheless, everyone in our university community has the right to feel safe and respected. We have forcefully and repeatedly affirmed that no incitement to violence or incidents of harassment or hate, including Islamophobia and Antisemitism, will be tolerated on our campuses."

The school says while peaceful protests are permitted in "appropriate" spaces on campus, "encampments and occupations" will not be tolerated.

"In conclusion, we ask everyone to thoughtfully consider their responsibilities and the wellbeing of our entire community. We continue to call on all members of our community to treat each other with respect and empathy as they interact in our classrooms, common spaces, and online."

uOttawa did not respond to a CTV News request for comment.

Odeh would not say whether an encampment was being planned.

"I can't make a comment on that, but for now, we are going to continue to show up every single day," Odeh said.

"INSAF is currently not planning on having an encampment," added Maliketh.

Growing student protests in Canada come after weeks of encampments being set up in support of Palestinians at major American universities.

A growing encampment has been seen at McGill University over the weekend. On Monday, the university's media relations office noted the situation has "shifted significantly" as the number of tents on campus has tripled since Saturday.

"We have become aware that many of them, if not the majority, are not members of the McGill community," McGill said in a statement Monday.

Some American universities have had to switch to hybrid courses after some Jewish students said the protests made them feel unsafe on campus.

Early Saturday, police in riot gear cleared an encampment on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston. Massachusetts State Police said about 102 protesters were arrested and will be charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. Protesters said they were given about 15 minutes to disperse before being arrested.

New York police removed a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at Columbia University and arrested more than 100 demonstrators on April 18.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Sam Houpt, the Associated Press and CTV News Montreal

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