March 19, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 89  

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Mid East conflict is York protest fodder — again

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Middle East tensions have erupted again at York University after two groups of demonstrators clashed on campus Tuesday. The protests descended into a shouting match when the two groups confronted each other.

According to Nancy White, a spokesperson for York, the administration agreed to allow a vigil by Hillel and the Young Zionist Partnership to take place on campus, outside Veri Hall. “There were rumours of a [Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights] demonstration as well, but nothing official.”

Paul Cooper, president of the York Federation of Students, said he attended the demonstration in his capacity as a student. He said administration told Hillel and the YZP to move their vigil away from Veri Hall. “There was no attempt by administration to prevent or take down the SPHR demonstration [which was inside Veri Hall].”

SPHR began a theatrical demonstration immediately upon arriving in Veri Hall, White said.

“SPHR was setting up their version of mock checkpoints — they were demonizing Israelis who could be some of our brothers, sisters or friends,” Cooper said.

SPHR could not be reached for comment.

White explained that administration and campus security were present. “It’s not allowed for people to demonstrate in Veri Hall because there are classrooms — they need a permit to demonstrate [at all],” she said, adding security was trying to control the SPHR demonstrators when the other group came onto the scene.

“The dynamic changed when they arrived; the event really changed. We are really disappointed — these are students that know the rules and they broke them,” she said.

“Administration knew this would happen — they were [at Veri Hall] since 10 a.m. and they didn’t do anything to stop it,” said Seth Winberg, a Hillel VP, adding the group sent a video to administration showing the violence resulting from similar demonstrations at other schools. “Jewish students are fed up with the lack of support from administration.”

“The [York] VP-students is sending out a letter of reprimand to both groups — we cannot rule out disciplinary action right now,” White said.

“I don’t think it was very wise [for the YFS president to take a side in the demonstration],” said University Students’ Council President Paul Yeoman. “The situation at Concordia [University] happened when the student union started playing favourites.”



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