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Pro-Palestinian protesters clear encampment at University of Toronto


Pro-Palestinian protesters who have been occupying King's College Circle for more than 60 days have moved out ahead of a 6 p.m. deadline set by the court to vacate the encampment.

Speaking at a solidarity rally an hour before police were expected to move in, organizers of the encampment confirmed that they would abide by the court order and depart the site.

"We refuse to give the Toronto Police Service any opportunity to brutalize us as they have done repeatedly since October," Mohammad Yassin, a spokesperson for encampment organizers, said.

"We are leaving on our terms to protect our community from the violence the University of Toronto is clearly eager to unleash upon us."

It marked the end of the encampment that began on May 2, when demonstrators set up tents on the downtown campus to demand that the university disclose and divest from investments in companies profiting from Israel's ongoing offensive in Gaza.

While the encampment was taken down, organizers remained steadfast in their demands from the university.

"Our encampment maybe leaving this physical space but our fight will continue in the hearts and minds of everyone who believes in human dignity and justice," Yassin said.

Tents are shown at a encampment on King's College Circle on the University of Toronto campus on July 3. (CP24)

Throughout the day, protesters have been removing their structures from the encampment as Toronto police urged them to leave voluntarily and avoid police action when they enforce the order.

The University of Toronto requested police help to clear the encampment after being granted an injunction. On Tuesday, an Ontario judge ordered demonstrators to remove the encampment, tents, and other structures.

The court ordered that police be authorized to arrest and remove those who did not leave the encampment by the deadline.

UofT President Meric Gertler, in a statement, said he was pleased that protesters ended the encampment peacefully.

"Members of our community continue to be free to exercise their right to free speech and lawful protest at the University of Toronto," he said.

Erin Mackey, another spokesperson for the encampment, said the group "will continue to show up day after day" until the university meets their demands.

"Ignoring us will make us go nowhere. We will continue to King'sp. We will continue to demand divestment. We are not slowing down," she said.

Sara Rasikh said the encampment was just one tactic and that the group was just getting started, listing how they plan to continue their campaign.

"Make no mistake, we are not leaving this fight. We are evolving," Rasikh said. "Our campaign continues stronger and more determined than ever."

In his decision on Tuesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Markus Koehnen said while there is no evidence the encampment participants have been violent or antisemitic, the demonstration has taken away the university's ability to control what happens in King's College Circle.

Koehnen said property owners generally decide what happens on their property, and if protesters can take that power for themselves, there is nothing to stop a stronger group from coming and taking over the space from the current protesters, leading to chaos.

The ruling, however, dismissed allegations that the encampment demonstrators had trafficked in antisemitic hate speech and slogans, accusations routinely directed at the group by pro-Israeli organizations.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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