Pro-Palestinian protesters vow to fight on, as numbers dwindle at B.C. encampment

Pro-Palestinian protesters vow to fight on, as numbers dwindle at B.C. encampment
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Pro-Palestine protesters are pictured at the Vancouver Island University campus in Nanaimo on May 1, 2024.

Pro-Palestinian protesters occupying university sites in British Columbia say they’ll continue to act on campuses after a court injunction that led to the clearing out of a similar encampment in Toronto this week.

But the number of tents and protesters at the University of British Columbia camp, which had been the largest in B.C., appears to have substantially dwindled more than two months after it was established.

A social media statement on behalf of protesters there and at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo called this week’s court ruling in Ontario “shameful” for prioritizing property ownership over students’ rights at the University of Toronto.

They say they will continue applying pressure “through every possible avenue” at the B.C. universities and “continue to act” on campus, but did not elaborate.

At the University of B.C., the number of tents has dropped to about 38 from about 75 in early May, and only a handful of people could be seen inside the fenced protest zone.

Protesters at the camp declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Island University issued an update this week on the encampment there, saying a group of about 25 protesters had occupied a school building and disrupted an exam on June 28.

The school said it was “monitoring similar encampments at other campuses countrywide and (was) aware of the legal measures taken by other institutions to address such situations.”

FROM MAY 1: Protesters set up pro-Palestine camps at UVic, VIU

The protesters at the University of Toronto cleared out after the ruling by Ontario Superior Court Justice Markus Koehnen Tuesday, which said the demonstration had taken away the school’s ability to control what happens on its property.

“In our society, we have decided that the owner of property generally gets to decide what happens on the property,” Koehnen said in the decision.

“If the protesters can take that power for themselves by seizing front campus, there is nothing to stop a stronger group from coming and taking the space over from the current protesters. That leads to chaos.”

Demands by protesters in B.C. and elsewhere have included that universities divest from companies associated with Israel and its actions in Gaza, a boycott of Israeli institutions, and an affirmation of “Palestinians’ right to resist.”

SEE ALSO: Discussions remain halted between protestors and UVic following protests

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2024.

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