Clashing U of T protests end with arrest
Middle East groups tangle after event cancelled
By Laura Katsirdakis
The University of Toronto was the site of competing protests
surrounding the Middle East conflict this past Wednesday, resulting
in assault and one arrest.
The initial protest included members of the Arab Students’ Collective
and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. The counter-protest
included members of Hillel, a pro-Israel group at U of T.
The pro-Palestinian ASC, along with OCAP, were protesting the
fact that Al-Adwa, a group advocating the Palestinian right
of return, was denied the use of an on campus facility for
their conference last weekend by the university, explained
Michael Desroches, an organizer at OCAP who attended the protest.
As reported in The Gazette on Tuesday, the university cancelled
Al-Adwa’s booking due to their “Basis of Unity” which,
according to the ASC’s Web site, “defined the purpose
and direction of the conference.” It included such things
as an insistence on a one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and a statement that “Israel is a racist and
The protest, according to Jane Sterling, public affairs officer
at U of T, consisted of about 50 people. Police were on hand
and arrested one person, Sterling said, adding the arrest was
made off campus and the suspect was not a U of T student.
“Several Hillel students went to protest the protest,” said
Lisa Isen Baumal, director of Hillel. “The [initial]
protest was supposed to be about the [Al-Adwa] conference being
shut down, but it actually became quite anti-Israel.”
“We were responding to what was being said,” Isen
Baumal explained, adding one pro-Israeli man was spat on by
a pro-Palestinian woman. “I believe she was arrested
by the police,” she said.
“One person was arrested for allegedly assaulting a
member of a Zionist group that was disturbing the protest by
making racist comments,” Desroches said. “The Zionist
group came to the protest with the intention of disrupting
it and shutting it down.”
The U of T Police Service confirmed they made no arrests and
Toronto Police were unable to discuss any specifics regarding
“As an organization, we decided to support the [pro-Palestinian]
group in their efforts to hold their conference on campus,” Desroches
said of OCAP’s reason for attending the protest.
“We were scheduled to be one of the speakers at the
conference [that was cancelled] — on the question of
Palestinian refugees,” Desroches explained. “A
major area of our work is with refugees from many countries — OCAP
also deals primarily in issues of social justice and the situation
in Palestine is a question of social justice.”
The ASC Web site posted a “call to action” and
an “action plan to defend the right to organize.” The
following are excerpts from these:
“This is a conference for Toronto student and community
activists committed to the struggle for Palestinian human rights,
who are united by a common political basis of unity who want
to be able to organize together on the basis of the commonality
of their interests as opposed to having to waste valuable time
arguing with those who support the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“We demand that a space be provided [for the conference]
on Sunday, November 30th, at [Ontario Institute for Studies
in Education] on the U of T campus — we call for all
supporters to assemble at OISE... to support our right to have
this conference with our pro-Palestinian basis of unity.”
Jim Delaney, assistant director of student affairs at U of
T, stated that the university would be in meetings with Al-Awda
all day yesterday attempting to reach a solution.