Anti-Israel protest at University of Toronto
Anti-Israel protest at University of TorontoKyle Mazza/NurPhoto/Reuters

The University of Toronto (U of T) on Monday turned to the courts in an effort to clear an encampment of pro-Palestinian Arab protesters from its downtown campus, The Canadian Press reported.

Protesters said they were prepared to fight back with their own legal team and refused to leave the site, ignoring a deadline set in a trespass notice that had been issued last week.

U of T president Meric Gertler said the school was seeking an injunction and asking a court for an expedited case conference.

"In addition to pursuing this legal avenue to return King’s College Circle to the university community, we continue to engage in discussions with students representing those in the encampment," he wrote in a statement early Monday, according to The Canadian Press.

"We held a long and productive meeting yesterday and are meeting again today. We remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement and bring the unauthorized encampment to an end," added Gertler

University officials had issued a trespass notice on Friday ordering demonstrators to remove the encampment by 8:00 a.m. Monday, and on Sunday officials indicated they would seek an injunction in court if protesters did not comply.

The protesters, who set up tents in a large green space at the heart of the university's downtown campus on May 2, were joined by faculty and labor groups for a rally outside the nearby Convocation Hall as the trespass deadline passed.

Demonstrators and university administrators met Sunday afternoon, during which protesters presented what they described as a counter-offer calling on the school to disclose public investments in companies profiting from Israel's war in Gaza.

They are also asking the school to establish and let them be part of a joint working group examining private investments, as well as cut ties with two specific Israeli academic institutions.

On Thursday last week, the university had made an offer to the protesters – with 24 hours to respond – that said the school would form a working group to consider options for the disclosure of the school's investments, but it would not end any partnerships with Israeli universities.

On divestment, the university said it would strike an advisory committee to review the students' request under existing school policies.

The encampment at U of T is similar to anti-Israel encampments that have been set up at campuses across the US in recent weeks.

It comes as Toronto has seen an uptick in acts of antisemitism in the months following Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.

In early November, an Indigo book store in downtown Toronto was vandalized with red paint and posters plastered on its front windows wrongfully accusing its Jewish founder and CEO, Heather Reisman, of “Funding Genocide.”

In January, a Jewish-owned grocery store in Toronto was spray-painted with the words “Free Palestine” and later set on fire.

Days later, Toronto police arrested four people on a highway overpass, located near a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, that has become the site of recurring pro-Palestinian Arab protests.

In February, an anti-Israel protest at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto turned into a display of antisemitism. At least one protester was documented scaling the hospital with a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flag.

Last week, the Kehillat Shaarei Torah Synagogue in the city’s north end was vandalized for the second time in four weeks.

Over the weekend, two gunmen opened fire on Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School, a Jewish girls school located in the North York district of Toronto. There were no injuries in the incident, which took place at 4:52 a.m. local time.