U of T gave amnesty to protesters before encampment taken down

The University of Toronto says it agreed not to take legal or disciplinary action against students, faculty members and staff involved in a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus in exchange for the protesters ending the occupation peacefully.

In an email on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the university confirmed it granted amnesty to the protesters after student leaders requested it.

The agreement was signed by student leaders on July 3, hours before a deadline issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for protesters to take down their tents in an area known as King's College Circle. The court had imposed a deadline of 6 p.m. that day. According to student leaders, the agreement was signed by 4 p.m.

The court issued an injunction on July 2, allowing the school to tear down the encampment on its property and giving Toronto police the authority to remove and arrest anyone who didn't comply with the 6 p.m. deadline the next day.

The agreement was signed by Sandy Welsh, vice-provost of students, and Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice-president of people strategy, equity and culture, along with four representatives of the U of T Occupy for Palestine.

"The university and members of the encampment communicated throughout the day on July 3 ahead of the deadline set out in the court order," the spokesperson for the university said in the email.

"This correspondence, which was initiated by student leaders, led to an agreement to ensure a peaceful, orderly and safe departure without the involvement of the police, in keeping with the university's goal from the outset."

School granted amnesty after students' request: organizer

Sara Rasikh, a graduate student at the school and an encampment organizer, confirmed in an email on Wednesday that the school granted amnesty after students asked for it.

"Ensuring the safety of all protesters has always been top of mind for the [group]," Rasikh said.

"A similar amnesty agreement was included in every single deal put forward by Occupy and agreed to in principle by the university even before the injunction was filed. Encampment participants believe it is the bare minimum for the university not to go after its students for a peaceful protest. This agreement merely states that on paper, and we expect them actually to abide by it."

Protesters cleared the site ahead of the court-imposed deadline.

Protesters set up tents at U of T's downtown campus on May 2. Organizers demanded that the university divest from companies profiting from Israel's offensive in Gaza and end partnerships with Israeli academic institutions they say are complicit in the war. The university did not comply with any of the demands.

The encampment was part of a massive wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at post-secondary institutions in Canada and the United States.