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Pro-Palestinian protesters set up tents at U of O

Nearly two dozen tents popped up on the University of Ottawa campus between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning as protesters call on the school to end its investments in companies and organizations linked to Israel.

What started as a sit-in earlier this week had turned into an encampment by late Tuesday when a group called INSAF uOttawa set up tents on the lawn in front of Tabaret Hall at the corner of Laurier Avenue E. and Cumberland Street.

“We are asking the university to make their investments public,” said U of O student Sumayya Kheireddine, one of the pro-Palestinian protest organizers.

Tents and a lawn sign with trees in the background.
Protesters had set up nearly two dozen tents in front of Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa on Wednesday morning. (Rosalie Sinclair/Radio-Canada)

But she said it has been “radio silence” from the university until now, she said.

“People were upset and wanted to be heard. The decision was: we’re going to escalate and if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes.”

The university’s most recent disclosure of its investments was in 2022, she said.

Kheireddine said the group is primarily made up of students and recent alumni from both the U of O and Carleton University. She estimated that about 50 people had spent the previous night in tents.

The group’s name, INSAF, comes from an Arabic word meaning justice or equality.

A man wearing a black and white scarf.
Tom Deadman, another organizer, said protesters hope police are not called in to remove them, as they were at Columbia University in New York City. (Mateo Garcia-Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

“We felt we had to escalate,” said Tom Deadman, another participating U of O student.

He said the group wants to send a strong message to the university “that we will be here for as long as it takes until they listen to those demands.”

Eric Bercier, the university’s vice president of student affairs, has warned that there would be serious consequences if an encampment were set up.

Similar work has taken place at universities in the United States and Canada, including at McGill University in Montreal, where school administrators have asked local police for help.

Two McGill students have requested an injunction to halt protests near campus buildings.

At Columbia University in New York City, police cleared pro-Palestinian protesters from a campus building. Police there said they planned to charge some of those involved with trespassing and burglary.

LOOK | Police raid Columbia University and arrest protesters

Police raid Columbia University and arrest protesters

New York police raided Columbia University and arrested protesters who barricaded themselves in a building and called on the New York school to get rid of companies linked to Israel.

Ottawa police told CBC on Wednesday morning that officers are monitoring the situation, but said there have been no requests from the university for police intervention.