UBC community members began an encampment in solidarity with Palestine on MacInnes Field on Monday, April 29 at 5 a.m.

The encampment comes after months of student-led protests at UBC in solidarity with Palestine. Similar encampments have been set up on university campuses across the world, including at Columbia University and McGill University.

In an Instagram post, organizers @peoplesuniversityubc said its demands for UBC included divesting from companies complicit in Palestinian human rights abuses, boycotting Israeli universities and institutions and publicly condemning what organizers and human rights experts call a genocide in Gaza.

UBC rejected calls from student groups to divest from companies complicit in Palestinian human rights violations and endorse the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement in 2022. In December 2023, UBC President Benoit-Antoine Bacon reaffirmed UBC does not support BDS.

Inspired by The Michigan Daily, The Ubyssey spent a day on MacInnes Field to learn about community members' motivations for attending the encampment. 

The names of some protestors have been withheld as per The Ubyssey’s anonymity policy

Thursday, May 2 

8 a.m. 

The encampment's community agreement.
The encampment's community agreement. Nathan Bawaan / The Ubyssey

The outside of the encampment was shrouded in signs reading “From the River to the Sea" and "Free, Free Palestine."

Many signs cited support from various groups across campus and the Lower Mainland, including SFU and Bayan Canada. A few protestors were near the encampment’s sole entrance to give instructions and go over the encampment community’s guidelines for any newcomers. 

There was a constant squawk of seagulls as the encampment began to wake up. A couple set up the breakfast tables with coffee, water bottles, granola bars and fruit snacks. Nearby was an empty kids play station with dinosaur figurines, blocks and crayons, and on the other side of the food tables, a cardboard sign that read “Free Palestine” laid drying next to bottles of paint and brushes.

9 a.m. 

One side of the encampment's barricade.
One side of the encampment's barricade. Elena Massing / The Ubyssey

As the first round of community members trickled out of their tents, they made their way to different stations set up around the encampment site — a few removed their masks to do rapid tests, others traveled to the fully stocked food tables. 

Someone circled the barricade built from an assortment of construction materials lining the perimeter of the field. They pushed on the wooden pallets and scrap metal, making sure that the barricade still stood strong. People chatted in circles of folding chairs, a parent pushed a stroller around the encampment and someone did their morning stretches in an open patch of turf — the routines brought a sense of normalcy to an otherwise irregular use of the field. 

10 a.m. 

Sam, an encampment media spokesperson, said she’s been at the encampment since Monday.

“It's so important [to me] personally, I felt to show up and show strength and solidarity with what's happening currently in Palestine and in Gaza,” said Sam.

Sam spoke about different sections of the encampment such as the arts station, kids play table, community garden and library in honour of Palestinian poet and scholar Refaat Al-Areer. She also said they hold teach-ins during the day.

“It's very much a community that’s centered in collective support and strength with one another.”

When asked if the encampment had spoken to UBC, Sam said there had been no communication with the university. 

“We're not here to negotiate. We've been negotiating for the past few decades,” said Sam. “We've had enough, and we will no longer be complicit in a genocide that is so rampant.”

Acting Senior Director at UBC Media Relations Matthew Ramsey wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey that UBC has been "updating the UBC community (which includes students) through the campus security website and via media."

Sam said the encampment has received “overwhelming” support from the community, adding that families have been donating fresh meals.

Sam also highlighted the importance of the different generations coming out to the encampment from babies and young children to senior citizens who were part of anti-war movements in the 1960s. 

“It's really been an intergenerational effort … [I] really want to stress on how important intergenerationality has been in the strength of this.”

11 a.m. 

The People's Garden inside the encampment.
The People's Garden inside the encampment. Nathan Bawaan / The Ubyssey

The encampment milled with community members. The library and archivists for Palestine set up a table to offer books for people to read. People continued their daily activities — someone knitted, a child ran around with a kite and others pulled out laptops. Someone walked their dog around the field. 

Strong gusts of wind blew a tent over, and a group of people rushed to fix it. The group worked together to mend the tent and patch up any holes. 


A 'Free Palestine' flag on top of the encampment's barricade.
A 'Free Palestine' flag on top of the encampment's barricade. Elena Massing / The Ubyssey

Today was Avi Lewis’ first time at the encampment. 

“I've only been here for a few minutes and walked around for the first time, and it's just beautiful.”

Lewis, an geography professor at UBC, also said the community agreements are a “model of activism.”

The UBC Jewish Faculty Network (JFN), which Lewis is part of, supports the rights of UBC students to peacefully protest in solidarity with Palestine.

Lewis said the JFN is “dismayed, by the way that pro-Israel organizations try to speak for the Jewish community.”

He stresses that “the Jewish opinion is not monolithic.”

“As faculty members, we live for our students. We care deeply about their welfare, and we support their absolute freedom of speech and freedom of assembly on campus,” said Lewis.  

The JFN also “reject the misleading notion that these protests, or other protests against Israel, are inherently antisemitic,” according to a May 1 statement from the group. 

“Our students are inheriting a world in crisis, but they remind us every day that another world is possible,” read the statement. “We stand with the UBC students who are trying to bring that world into existence in many different ways, including through protest.”

“We implore the university to rethink its approach to police presence on campus and commit to upholding students’ rights.”

1 p.m.

Signs hung around a tent.
Signs hung around a tent. Nathan Bawaan / The Ubyssey

A small group of community members (and a St. Bernard with a bandana tied around its neck) sat in a circle around a man and a woman. On one of their phones was a woman hundreds of thousands of miles away at the Rafah border crossing between the Gazan city of Rafah and Egypt.

The man in the middle of the circle held the phone up to his ear to hear over the soft breeze as he translated what the woman on FaceTime was saying to the community members in the circle.

Just before the call ended, the woman in the middle of the circle turned her phone around to show the woman in Rafah those joining the call. As the listeners waved, someone in the circle began a chant.

Free, free Palestine. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

When the call ended, some wiped tears away from their eyes. 

Elsewhere, a group of five community members decorated signs with slogans like “Dykes for Palestine,” as a slightly larger group next to them made small flowers with red, black and green plastic petals to represent the Palestinian flag.

People set up two tents near the encampment border closest to University Boulevard.

2 p.m.

A sign on a barricade that reads 'UBC sucks'.
A sign on a barricade that reads 'UBC sucks'. Nathan Bawaan / The Ubyssey

The distant sounds of seagulls squawking and the nearby construction sites mixed with the growing din of the encampment as a few small groups of community members popped up around the empty area of the field in the southwest corner of the camp.

A couple asked someone reading alone if they could join them. It was the couple's first time at the encampment and they wanted to meet people. The three of them started talking about their reasons for coming to the encampment and the news about the UBC encampment and others across North America.

With the sun beating down with little shade from the surrounding buildings, an organizer walked around with a bottle of spray-on sunscreen, stopping and offering some to each group around the field.

Next to the peace garden, two women set up a red canopy for parents in support of Palestine. A small cardboard square hanging from the tent read “Family 4 Pal.“

3 p.m.

Banners inside the encampment.
Banners inside the encampment. Elena Massing / The Ubyssey

Dr. Chris Patterson’s ancestors lived through over 200 years of Spanish and American colonization in the Philippines and Hawaii.

“I personally come from a history entangled with American empire and what may seem like a different context from Palestine,” said Patterson, a GRSJ associate professor, at the beginning of his encampment teach-in.

“I'm going to try and show how these entanglements of war and genocide are actually not that different.”

Patterson’s voice, with the help of the mic, echoed across the silent crowd as he explained the “entanglements” between instances of colonialism and genocide in Gaza with those seen in the histories of Asian diaspora.

He said these entanglements included the construction of US military bases around the Asian Pacific and the Middle East to extend US control over these regions, the employment of racial capitalism to disguise violence and exploitation and the strategic rejection of labelling things as ‘genocide’ to avoid accountability.

“It takes years, sometimes decades for a genocide not only to be acknowledged as such, but for any form of justice to manifest if it ever does,” Patterson said on the last entanglement, referencing the work of his late-partner and former UBC English professor, Dr. Y-Dang Troeung.

As Patterson spoke, the breeze rustled through the pages of his speech as those sitting on the now-hot turf started shedding their sweaters and jackets.

4 p.m.

A community member clapping to the chants.
A community member clapping to the chants. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

After an update about Gaza was read by the organizers, community members started chanting.

Disclose. Divest. We will not stop. We will not rest. Disclose. Divest. We will not stop. We will not rest.

The crowd was loud, strong, and of the organizers chimed in: “I want everyone from here to Wesbrook to hear us so they can't fucking ignore us anymore.”

UBC, you will see. Palestine will be free.

5 p.m.

A student at the tatreez teach-in.
A student at the tatreez teach-in. Jocelyn Baker / The Ubyssey

Needles, thread and patches of fabric sat on plastic blue tarp where a group of community members gathered to learn how to do tatreez — traditional Palestinian embroidery. 

A community member, Ma’amoul, who led the teach-in, said tatreez is “a form of resistance.”

“During the Nakba … and anytime Palestinians get displaced, one of the easiest things to grab is textile work because you can fold it up, make it as small as possible, pack it up and take it with you,” said Ma’amoul. 

“One of the ways we kept our culture strong and with us is through textile work.”

Tatreez was added to UNESCO’s cultural heritage list in 2021. Then-Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said “this step is important and timely, in order to protect our Palestinian identity, heritage and narrative, in the face of the occupation’s attempts to steal what it does not own.”

Meanwhile, a group of community members entered a tent for Asr prayer. The tent, with an Irish flag and South African flag marking the outside, served as the encampment's musallah, an Islamic prayer space. 

The back of an attendee's hoodie that reads 'Free Palestine.'
The back of an attendee's hoodie that reads 'Free Palestine.' Jocelyn Baker / The Ubyssey

6 p.m.

A sign and a chair on the encampment's barricade.
A sign and a chair on the encampment's barricade. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

The sound of drills reinforcing the encampment barricade cut through the hum of protestors. 

The person behind the drill was Rooster, an apprentice electrician. He had attended the encampment since Monday evening, and on Tuesday, he brought his tools to reinforce the barricade. 

Before Rooster entered the trades, he was a UBC student interested in academia, but left university for mental health reasons. 

“It really kind of [made me realize] ‘Oh, academia has some problems,’” said Rooster. “And fast forward to my career now and everything that is going on in society. I felt this is kind of like rebelling against the academic status quo.” 

One of the encampment's demands include UBC divesting from companies complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians. According to UBC Investment Management’s 2023 Holdings Disclosure Report, UBC was invested in Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, Siemens AG, Axa S.A, Puma SE and PepsiCo Inc. These companies are on the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s boycott list

“This is the way that I can contribute based on my past experience and my current skills.”

Rooster said the encampment “radiates joy.”

“Anytime that anyone has said, ‘Thank you,’ to me for what I'm doing — it just fills my heart with motivation to keep going and to keep fighting and to try … to be a better ally,” said Rooster.

“I feel grateful.”

7 p.m.

A Palestinian flag garland.
A Palestinian flag garland. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Against the setting sun, an organizer passed around slices of basbousa to protestors. Community members were excited, speaking to each other about how much they love the syrup-soaked semolina cake. An almond was affixed to the top of each golden slice. 

A member of a group of three, taught one of their friends how to pronounce basbousa. The trio shared the last slice.

8 p.m.

An attendee cheering for their friend after they caught a frisbee.
An attendee cheering for their friend after they caught a frisbee. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Birds sang while people began Maghrib prayer in the encampment’s centre. Community members sat around the prayer, listening, talking or eating the chicken and rice that was just dropped off. A pair plays with a frisbee in the corner of the field.

9 p.m.

A sign which reads 'None of this is inevitable. Another world is possible.'
A sign which reads 'None of this is inevitable. Another world is possible.' Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

A group hacky-sacked where Maghrib prayers were held earlier. The encampment’s medic tent is nearby.

Near the front of the tent — stocked with first-aid supplies, vitamins, over-the-counter medications and pads — was Rosa, a first-aid certified UBC student 8 hours into her 12-hour medic shift.

“I’m here because it gets harder and harder to look at your phone and see the injustice that’s going on and not being able to actively do something about it,” said Rosa. “I think that’s the feeling behind a lot of people … We couldn’t sit by and watch this happen anymore.”

Rosa said she had attended the encampment since the first day — “Being able to help keep everyone healthy and safe in here is really awesome.”

10 p.m.

A kite flying over the encampment.
A kite flying over the encampment. Renée Rochefort / The Ubyssey

Though some people began to retreat to their tents, the encampment continued to buzz. On the left side, groups settled in clusters, some to play board games and others to kick a ball around, but many simply chatted, sharing stories among themselves. 

Around 10:30 p.m., a small group congregated for Isha prayer, their voices rising and falling in unison to recite the holy verses. 

A kite blipped through the sky, illuminating its darkness with a bright heart-shaped watermelon. The person behind the kite brought out two more. People took turns dashing across the field, propelling the kite into the air.

A man in a Canucks jersey passed through a group, stirring up conversation about the upcoming game. Conversation circled various topics, but all lead back to their shared common interest: A free Palestine.

11 p.m.

Thursday’s last hour is quiet. Many groups had begun packing up for the night and the green astroturf of the field revealed itself slowly but surely. 

Despite the late hour, diminished chatter and construction noises continued. A book reading continued into the night, with participants huddling around in a circle discussing the links between the book’s content and Palestinian liberation.

Friday, May 3


A kite laying on the turf hours earlier.
A kite laying on the turf hours earlier. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

“Don’t you have work tomorrow morning?” said one community member to a friend running a kite across the field.

“Yeah,” the man light-heartedly replied. He and his group shared a laugh together. 

One of the group members said it’s hard to leave once you’re here.

With each passing hour, the sense of community continued to hold the encampment together, with people encouraging each other to stick around.

Close to 1 a.m., three RCMP vehicles drove by the encampment’s perimeter. A siren played for a brief second, drawing the attention away from conversations.

1 a.m.

RCMP left minutes past the hour, with the sound of a vehicle’s aggressive pullaway drawing eyes and ears onto the bus loop.

The camp’s energy glacially descended into the night, with some of the same discussion circles still going strong. Occasionally, someone laughed a little too loud, only to be hushed half-jokingly by their friends, reminding them of those asleep nearby.

Some of the camp’s attendees adjusted the encampment’s barricade, pushing on its wooden crate pallets.

2 a.m.

Tents at the encampment.
Tents at the encampment. Spencer Izen / The Ubyssey

A few organizers parked themselves by the encampment’s entrance, monitoring the flow in and out, while the remaining conversations petered out under the stars.

3 a.m.

Two RCMP officers walked around the encampment’s barricade. They acknowledged the organizers at the entrance and continued onward.

4 a.m.

The RCMP left 45 minutes later at around 4:15 a.m. Seagulls’ calls could be heard over the encampment.

5 a.m.

Seagulls squawked intermittently as dawn broke.

6 a.m.

A community board in the encampment, lit up by the sunrise.
A community board in the encampment, lit up by the sunrise. Spencer Izen / The Ubyssey

Gradually, as the buses looped past and the sun rose higher, tents began to rustle awake.

As it neared 7 a.m., the sounds of seagulls were complemented by the booms and crashes of nearby construction sites. Voices began to surround the encampment too — those of campus employees making their way to work.

7 a.m.

A sign in the encampment which reads 'Your tuition funds genocide.'
A sign in the encampment which reads 'Your tuition funds genocide.' Elena Massing / The Ubyssey

Faculty members dropped off coffee. A woman packed up her tent. A couple of students sat on the grass and chat. 

Pancake, the encampment’s media liaison, said her time at the encampment has “been very powerful.”

“I see a pocket of the world that we are building. A world that is decolonial, a world that is safe … a world that is building toward a free Palestine.” 

The encampment slowly but surely woke up as community members got ready to spend another day in solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinian people.

— Additional reporting by Jocelyn Baker.