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MP condemns University of Toronto for shutting down pro-Zionist camp during month-long pro-Palestinian demonstration

Independent MP Kevin Vuong is criticizing the actions of the campus police at the University of Toronto over the weekend after they halted a counter protest by Jewish students almost immediately.

Ph.D. student Joshua Samuels tried to establish a pro-Zionist counter encampment on school property on June 2, but it was taken down by campus police within a few minutes of being set up at King’s College Circle, as per social media posts from the protestors.

“It turns out U of T does have the ability to remove tents quickly,” Mr. Vuong wrote on X. “Unfortunately, they only remove tents set up by Jewish U of T students and acted within 5 mins. When did anti-Jew discrimination become U of T policy? That wasn’t the case when I was a student.”

The pro-Zionist counter-protestors erected several tents next to the pro-Palestinian encampment with a tall fence separating the two spaces. Campus police arrived soon after and dismantled and removed the tents, Israel flags, and possessions of those participating in the protest.

A video shared on X shows the university’s campus police instructing the protestors to leave the area. One officer can be heard contacting Toronto Police, stating, “We have trespassers that are refusing to leave,” and then informing the protestors, “you’re not setting up in here.”

One officer confiscated protest leader Joshua Smauels’ backpack despite Mr. Samuels’ requests to retrieve his medication first. The officer mentioned that the bag and its contents would be returned, but only “outside the fence.”

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Mr. Samuels denounced the campus police’s response as “systemic, institutional racism and two-tier justice,” in a post on X on June 2, stating that “Hamas supporters receive the red carpet treatment.”

“⁦University of Toronto⁩ has the authority and power to remove student tents. They just discriminate based on the popular issue,” Mr. Samuels wrote in another post. “Hamas tents = good! Peaceful Canadian and pro Israel tents = removed. This is discrimination.”

Mr. Samuels interacted briefly with the pro-Palestinian protestors through the fence before being forced to leave the area.

“Two-camp solution, my friend,” he said. “Peaceful protest to the end.”

One of the pro-Palestinian protestors swore at him while another questioned the pro-Zionists’ demands.

“Divest, disclose,” Mr. Samuels replied, hinting in a subsequent social media post that the protest aimed to shine a light on anti-Semitism.

“We need to hear from a lot more U of T students impacted by the hate on campus,” he wrote. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. We belong, and we’re not going anywhere. The consequence of silence will be a lot worse than the inconvenience of speaking out, trust me.”

Following the removal of their camp, the pro-Zionist demonstrators marched on university grounds with the accompaniment of campus police. Mr. Samuels also delivered a speech, although it was not shared on X.

The Epoch Times reached out to the University of Toronto for comment but did not receive a response before publication.

Ongoing Legal Battle

The removal of the pro-Israel tents coincides with the university’s pursuit of a court order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to remove the pro-Palestinian encampment from its property after over a month of occupation. The university is seeking court authorization for police action to evict protesters who defy orders to vacate.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Markus Koehnen has specified June 19–20 as the dates for the injunction hearing in a timetable set out.

In a court document filed on May 29, the judge emphasized the urgency of the university’s injunction request due to the encampment’s proximity to Convocation Hall, where graduation ceremonies take place.

The judge noted that June 19–20 is the earliest suitable time for the injunction hearing “to provide the respondents with a fair chance to respond to the application.”

The judge also acknowledged that the dates do not align with the university’s desire to address the issue before commencement ceremonies commence on June 3.

The delay means that most graduates and their families attending ceremonies at the downtown campus will likely pass by the fenced-in camp, raising concerns about possible disruptions expressed by the university.

However, protesters have disputed how their presence would disrupt graduation events and are determined to stay until the university meets demands related to divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s actions in Gaza. The encampment was originally established on May 2.

Similar encampments on university campuses have emerged across Canada in recent months, with multiple schools considering or taking legal action against the demonstrators.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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