Organizers of Pro-Palestinian protest take down fencing in front of local media

By Justine Fraser

A Pro-Palestinian protest called ‘The People’s Plaza for Palestine’ that began on May 22 is still set up on the University of Guelph campus. The organizers said during a press conference Tuesday that they are not going anywhere until their demands are met.

On Monday, the university released a statement saying the encampment is blocking fire routes and they have been told by the fire department the fencing had to be taken down.

The statement said, “The university is being fined $20,000 per day for non-compliance.”

The university closed access to Zavitz Hall saying it was to mitigate risk to the community. In the release, U of G also said they installed additional security cameras in the area of the encampment at 50 Stone Rd. E. next to the hall.

In response, the protesters held a press conference June 4 to let the community know they are willing to comply with what the fire department wants. They spoke with Guelph’s fire marshal themselves who let them know a fine had not actually been given yet and they only needed to create a pathway next to them.

One of the organizers, Waida, said they listened to the fire marshal because he was honest with them.

“The main goal today was for everyone to understand the sort of false narratives that the university and the admin are painting of us,” said Waida.

They added that the fire marshal in Guelph gave them a business card and wanted to keep conversations open. They feel the university is using the proposed fines as a way to push them out.

The organizers said the university never handed them, or anyone in the encampment, a form or proof of the fine but saw it online.

“Initially when we were presented the notice, we were told that we had to move the encampment in by 10 ft. what we found at from the marshal is that we just had to create a walkway to those stair to be able to exit,” said Waida.

The protesters took down wires and fencing set up next to Zavitz Hall in front of local media outlets. They wanted to prove they are willing to comply with fire safety regulations.

After the press conference, the university sent out another news release, saying they had been given a two-week extension.

In a statement to CityNews Kitchener, the university said, “This is a sensitive situation and due to the fire protection measures the University has put in place, including closing access to Zavitz Hall, Guelph Fire Services agreed late yesterday to provide an extension to the deadline to comply. The University has not received any fines to date.”

The university said they have plans to reopen Zavitz Hall once they have approval from Guelph Fire Services.

The organizers of the protest said they want the university to commit to divestment into companies that they say support Israel’s war in Gaza.

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