Pro-Palestinian encampment set up on the University of Waterloo campus

A pro-Palestinian encampment has been set up outside of the grad house on the University of Waterloo campus.

At least a dozen tents have been constructed on the upper lawn of the grad house, with plywood and fencing surrounding the perimeter of the encampment and two dozen Adirondack chairs for gathering spaces.

An Instagram post from Occupy Waterloo announced the encampment on Monday. The group has renamed grad house to “Gaza House.” They add that the protestors will not leave until the university divests from certain organizations with ties to Israel.

“We refused to sit idly by and watch our university support genocide with our tuition dollars,” reads the post. “For seven months the university has lied to, dismissed, and surveilled students calling for divestment and an end to UW’s financial and academic ties to the genocidal and apartheid state of Israel.”

One person on campus, Dave, said he doesn’t agree with what is happening in Gaza, but other students’ rights should not be infringed upon by the encampment.

“If you want to protest, protest outside of the companies that are providing these arms or embassies,” he said. “I don’t think it should be taken away from 2,000 to 3,000 people in the university community.”

The encampment joins others established at universities across the country, including the University of Toronto, McGill in Montreal and Western University in London.

The university in a statement said they are aware of the encampment and have begun engagements with the organizers. Their full statement can be read below:

“The University of Waterloo is committed to supporting a campus community where individual rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected and where everyone can come to work, learn and play in safety. All members of our community are free to express their views, but we must aim to maintain a supportive, respectful and tolerant environment for everyone. We will not tolerate any form of violence or hate speech.

We have already begun to engage with the group who have established an encampment on Waterloo’s main campus. Our top priority is the health and safety of our community. We intend to remain in dialogue with the organizers of the protest to ensure that the encampment remains safe for everyone on the campus. We will also be focused on ensuring that we can maintain the normal operations of the University.

Regarding the demands this group is making, the University has committed to considering the issues raised regarding investments at both the Finance & Investment committee and the Pension Investment committee of the Board of Governors. Both committees are already working to look again at reporting on investments and the ESG factors that fund managers consider. An update will be provided at the June meeting of Waterloo’s Board of Governors.

Waterloo will also consult on and developing guidelines on institutional partnerships. This work will be informed by the outcomes of the Taskforce on Free Expression which is set to report in the coming months and the new institutional values, to be considered by the Board in June.

We will continue to work with those who have gathered and with the entire campus community to ensure that we can continue to support the right to assemble freely, and the right to come and study, learn and work in safety.”

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