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1 arrested after police clear UBC intersection of pro-Palestinian protesters

No apparent move against ongoing protest encampment that has occupied a campus field
People take over a field with tents during a student encampment for Palestine at the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver on Monday, April. 29, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

Police cleared pro-Palestinian protesters from a main intersection at the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver on Wednesday.

But there was no obvious move against a protest encampment that has occupied a sports field at the campus for a month.

The intersection of University Boulevard and Wesbrook Mall was clear by 12:15 p.m., though several unoccupied RCMP vehicles were parked nearby.

Video posted shortly after 11 a.m. by an account associated with the protests had showed dozens of uniformed officers walking down the main route.

The Instagram account called “People’s University for Gaza at UBC” had earlier posted an update asking people to gather for a rally at the intersection.

Footage provided by a protester who did not want to be identified showed RCMP officers standing over a woman sitting on the road, her hands behind her back.

A voice over a loudspeaker tells protesters: “This is the RCMP. You need to clear the area immediately or you will be under arrest.”

About three hours after RCMP, and officers from Vancouver, Richmond and B.C. Highway Patrol, cleared the intersection, B.C. RCMP confirmed one person “did not comply with police direction and was arrested.”

The protest occurred during spring graduation ceremonies at UBC that have been going on since last week.

After police cleared the road, a few dozen protesters marched across campus from the Rose Garden near where graduation ceremonies were taking place to McInnes Field, where protesters have been encamped since April 29.

The person who picked up the University RCMP non-emergency line around midday directed media questions to the school.

Const. Tania Visintin with the Vancouver police said the department was asked to go on “standby,” and video posted by the protest group showed Vancouver police vehicles near the intersection, but Visintin said they did not deploy any officers.

Protest organizers issued a statement saying the intersection was blocked by an “autonomous coalition” of protesters.

It said that over the past week, “thousands of graduates have walked the stage on this unceded Musqueam land,” and this was in “stark contrast” to the current situation in Gaza “wherein there are no graduation ceremonies whatsoever.”

The pro-Palestinian encampment at UBC was the first of three similar camps to spring up in the province in response to Israel’s actions in its war with Hamas.

Protesters at UBC as well as the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University have called for the schools to end financial and academic ties with Israeli companies and institutions they say are complicit in the “genocide” of Palestinians.

A spokeswoman for UBC said earlier this week that the school had no update to its May 16 statement from president Benoit-Antoine Bacon, which called for “productive dialogue with members of the encampment to work toward a peaceful resolution.”

The camp had about 60 tents on Wednesday, fewer than during its early days.

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– With a file from Black Press Media