UW issues notice of trespass to Occupy UW encampment

The pro-Palestinian encampment that is setup on the grounds of the University of Waterloo (UW) has been issued a notice of trespass.

The university said it issued the notice to encampment residents (Occupy UW) Friday morning. The encampment has been setup since May 13 in front of the Graduate House on campus.

UW said in the notice that the encampment will need to be removed from school property immediately.

The notice states, “This is a notice under the Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O.1990M c. T. 21. You are hereby given notice that you are immediately prohibited from:

  • Occupying and remaining in the field in front of the Graduate House on the University of Waterloo campus in Waterloo, Ontario (the “Encampment”);
  • Erecting, installing, or maintaining unauthorized tents, shelters, equipment, or other structures on University of Waterloo property, including in the Encampment;
  • Occupying, gathering, or remaining at the University of Waterloo property, including at the Encampment between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. unless specifically authorized; and,
  • Gathering for the purpose of an Encampment at the University of Waterloo or in a manner inconsistent with our policies,”

The notice goes on to say that if Occupy UW does not comply and remain in the encampment and/or continue to participate in prohibited activities at the University of Waterloo, the university will pursue consequences under university policies, and/or agreements, and the law.

The notice finishes by saying that every person who engages in an activity on premises when the activity has been prohibited under the Act is guilty of an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of not more than $10,000.

UW said in a statement that the trespass notice comes in the wake of what it called “disruptive protest actions, that have become untenable, and violate various UW policies.”

“There’s been a myriad of instances of protest behaviour that has crossed a boundary from peaceful protesting to harassment and intimidation that we can no longer tolerate,” said Nick Manning, Associate VP of Communications for the University of Waterloo.

The university’s senate has passed motions aimed at meeting the demands of the encampment residents, however, Occupy UW said two have still not been addressed. It includes the divesting from institutions with ties to the Israeli military.

Protesters also disrupted a UW Board of Governors meeting, which the university called “unacceptable.”

Nicholas Joseph is the media liaison for OccupyUW. In an interview with CityNews 570, Joseph said the notice is “absolutely absurd.”

“The university has given us a list of supposed policy infractions a long time ago,” said Joseph. “We’ve had a lot of people dispute these supposed policy violations in real-time. I think it’s really immature and petty that the university would issue a trespass notice specifically after a disruption. If it was trespass that they cared about surely they would have issued this notice a long time ago. I think the university is just trying to destroy the encampment.”

Joseph said that because the encampment residents are students of the university, they believe the space is for them.

“We’re the students. We pay tuition. This is our space,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely non-sensical to give us a trespass charge especially since the land is disputed.”

Joseph thinks the university is blowing things out of proportion suggesting that the Board of Governor’s meeting was just disrupted and that the protesters weren’t intimidating.

“We have the whole protest on video, I was there,” he said. “They were refusing to discuss our demands and the recommendation made by the senate in an emergency meeting eight days prior so we were saying no business as usual,” he said. “You can’t engage in your normal operations if you are going to continue being complicit in genocide and not even talk about it,” said Joseph.

Joseph said that governors were coming in and out of the meeting at-will between two entrances.

“We were standing outside of one of the entrances,” he said. “There are two entrances to the room, not only did they have another entrance that was protected by police and special constables but even the entrance that we were at, governors were coming in and out freely, some of the governors were laughing and chatting with each other. I don’t think they would be laughing and chatting with each other if they truly felt intimidated. We simply disrupted. We did not allow the board of governors meeting to happen as scheduled. There were no threats, no intimidation.”

Joseph adds the residents of the encampment are strategizing for next steps. But, he believes getting this notice was partly expected.

“The University of Waterloo tries to mimic what other universities try and do, especially universities like U of T,” said Joseph. “I think other universities have taken more drastic measures to remove their students and probably the University of Waterloo couldn’t justification to take it that far because we haven’t violated any laws and we have arguably not violated any policies. I think it was expected they would give us this notice at this point. I am still disgusted by it. I think we aren’t here for fun, we are here advocating for the university to end it’s complicity in the most documented genocide in history. They care more of the protest itself and the concept of protesting than actually conceding to our demands or even discussing.”

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