Campus LifeNews

Palestine solidarity encampment begins on U of A Main Quad

Media spokespeople for the encampment said “the university is free to negotiate with us in order to solve [our] demands. Otherwise, we are here to stay.”

On May 9, a student-led group named the People’s University For Palestine YEG set up an encampment on the Main Quad at the University of Alberta. The students and community members in the group have several demands for the U of A and MacEwan University. They plan to continue the encampment until these demands are addressed. 

Encampments have been set-up across university campuses in North America in solidarity with Palestine. On April 17, the first encampment in the United States (US) began at Columbia University. The first encampment at a Canadian university began on April 27 at McGill University.

Among its demands, the People’s University For Palestine YEG wants the U of A and MacEwan to disclose their financial investments, and “declare via an immediate statement its condemnation of this genocide,” according to an Instagram post, posted the morning of May 9.

After 4:00 p.m. on May 9, a statement was put out by President and Vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan. The statement said that “university leadership is in open and ongoing communication with this group,” and that the “primary concern is the safety of the entire U of A community.”

“Our commitment to free expression calls for a measured and thoughtful approach, and we will extend this to all respectful and peaceful protestors,” the statement read. “However, the university will act where necessary to protect people and property and uphold the university’s policies.”

“Students have a right to know where their money is going,” spokesperson says

The Gateway spoke to the encampment’s media spokespeople, Abraar and Nour. Both chose not to disclose their last names due to safety concerns.  

The encampment was organized by independent students in solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine and with other encampments in North America, Abraar and Nour said. As of 4:00 p.m. on May 9, the encampment had 13 tents set-up.

According to Abraar and Nour, the encampment demands the U of A disclose its institutional and financial investments; divest “from the Zionist regime;” defend their right to peacefully protest; and declare “via an immediate statement that what is going on right now is a genocide and that they support an immediate ceasefire and a two-way embargo,” Nour said. 

“Students have a right to know where their money is going,” she said. “Considering the high amount of tuition that we pay, it’s just standard practice to let us have a say in where our money goes.”

“Our demands are clear and the university is free to negotiate with us in order to solve these demands. Otherwise, we are here to stay,” Nour said.

From May 1 to August 16, 2024, the following buildings are only accessible by ONEcard or keys: Assiniboia, Athabasca, and Pembina Halls; the Central Academic Building (CAB); Biological Sciences; the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS); the CCIS North Lecture Theatres; Chemistry West; and the South Academic Building (SAB). Assiniboia, Athabasca, CAB, CCIS, Pembina, and SAB face the Main Quad. 

On May 3, The Gateway asked U of A media relations what prompted these accessibility changes to Assiniboia, Athabasca, CAB, Pembina, and SAB. The Gateway followed-up on May 7, and as of May 9, has not received comment back.

“We did notice that buildings facing [the Main Quad] have been limited to ONEcard usage only. We do believe that this is likely due to the expectation of something like this,” Nour said.

According to Nour, the protesters are “following in [the] brave footsteps” of student encampments across North America. She added that the encampment is an opportunity for students to “put what you’re learning into action.” 

“We’d like to thank our faculty allies, our Jewish allies, and all of our community for showing up consistently for us.”

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

Dylana Twittey

Dylana Twittey is the 2024-25 Managing Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 News Editor. She is a second-year student studying history. In her free time, she enjoys watching 90s Law and Order, cooking, and rereading her favourite books for the fifth time.

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