Canada’s McGill closes Montreal campus to end pro-Palestinian protests

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McGill University temporarily closed its main campus in Montreal as it seeks to evict pro-Palestinian protesters who have been camped out there for more than two months.

McGill, one of Canada’s top institutions, hired a private security firm to remove tents and other items, while police in riot gear roamed the surrounding streets, which were closed to traffic. As of mid-morning on Wednesday, most of the protesters appeared to be peacefully leaving the site, which has been occupied since late April.

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“The encampment is the site of profound health and safety risks that continue to grow in scope and severity,” administrators said in a note posted on McGill’s website Wednesday. “To protect the security of the McGill community and the integrity of our property, the encampment on the lower field of the downtown campus is being dismantled.”

Universities across North America have been roiled by protests over the conflict between Israel and Hamas, with students and activists calling on universities to cut off relationships with Israeli institutions and divest from companies with ties to Israel.

McGill administrators initially tried and failed to get a court injunction against the protesters, then attempted to negotiate a solution but gave up on that in June, stating that “no fruitful outcome” was possible.

The student movement, which has drawn controversy for using images of armed fighters to promote a revolutionary youth camp, had been escalating its campaign at McGill. They occupied the school’s administration building in early June and were dispersed with tear gas, leading to multiple arrests. Last week, some smashed windows on the McGill campus.

A police officer on the scene on Wednesday told Bloomberg that McGill is exercising its rights on its own property, and that police were there to ensure the security of everyone.

Protesters at the University of Toronto took down a similar encampment last week ahead of a court-ordered deadline to leave.

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