University of Toronto tells pro-Palestinian protesters to leave campus park

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Police in Toronto plastered trespassing notices around a sprawling pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Toronto on Friday, warning that the school will take “all necessary legal steps” to remove protesters if they don’t clear out soon.

Protesters have until Monday at 8 a.m. to take down their tents and leave, according to the notices.

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If they aren’t gone by then, the university says it will seek a court order to remove the encampment with the assistance of police, and that students may face disciplinary action including suspensions.

Dozens of students have been sleeping in tents in the University of Toronto encampment, and some have begun hunger strikes.

The deadline represents an escalation in the school’s approach to the protests, which have occupied a large, circular park in the middle of campus since May 2.

While some protests across US and Canadian universities have been met with police force in recent weeks, the University of Toronto — one of Canada’s most prestigious schools — has largely avoided any confrontation.

University President Meric Gertler struck a harsher tone this week, however, saying the encampment “must end” and that he hasn’t ruled out calling police to clear the tents if the students don’t disperse on their own.

The move comes ahead of early June graduation ceremonies at the 62,000-student school, when thousands of students and their families typically converge on the picturesque park at King’s College Circle to celebrate.

On Thursday, hundreds of graduating students at Harvard University staged a walkout during a commencement ceremony after the school said it would not allow 13 students who took part in its own campus protests to graduate.

Like other protests at campuses across the US and Canada, pro-Palestinian students at the University of Toronto are calling on the administration to cut any links to Israel amid the war in Gaza.

The protesters say they want the school to publicize all its investments, divest any that directly or indirectly support the Israeli military and illegal West Bank settlements, and cut off ties with some Israeli universities.

The University of Toronto has said it has “no direct holdings” that protesters would oppose, and that it will not cut ties with any Israeli academic institutions.

On Thursday, Gertler gave protesters an offer that would see the university establish working committees to consider greater transparency around its investments.

He invited students to present their demands to the administration at a governance meeting in June.

The offer is “a farce” and “outrageous,” Kalliopé Anvar McCall, an undergraduate student at the encampment, told reporters on Friday. “It’s nothing but a summary of their already-existing procedure on divestment and disclosure, with a few minor tweaks to bait us into thinking we’re getting a good deal.”

Leaders of the protests said they have been invited to meet with the university on Sunday to discuss their demands, but that Gertler will not be present.

“It is clear by their actions that the administration believes we are inexperienced, imbecilic negotiators,” McCall said.

“Let it be on the record that it is the administration, not us, that walked away from these negotiations by presenting us with this ultimatum.”

Police in Alberta dismantled an encampment at the University of Alberta earlier this month, and McGill University in Quebec unsuccessfully sought a court injunction to shut down an encampment on its Montreal campus.

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