Arrest made after Palestinian solidarity protesters disrupt BC NDP conference, occupy campus buildings

On June 1, Palestinian solidarity encampment protesters held a rally and occupied campus buildings to disrupt the BC NDP Forward conference held in the Nest.

Around 11 p.m. on May 31, encampment organizers People’s University UBC wrote on Instagram that a rally to disrupt the Forward conference would take place.

“Join us tomorrow,” read the post’s caption. “Bring your voices and let them know there is NO BUSINESS AS USUAL DURING A GENOCIDE.”

Around 12:45 p.m., protesters held a rally inside the encampment, calling on the BC NDP to condemn what organizers and human rights experts call a genocide in Gaza.

According to a report issued by a United Nations-appointed expert, there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

“Politicians, you’re all cowards. People have all the power. NDP, your hands are red. 40,000 people dead,” chanted protesters inside the encampment.

Around 1:15 p.m., protesters left the encampment and were approached by two uniformed members of the Police Liaison Team — an RCMP unit that interfaces with groups planning protests to ensure they proceed lawfully — but protestors refused to speak to them.

Protesters entered the Nest from a locked door after someone opened it from the inside. A Campus Security officer pushed through protesters and ran to stop others from entering the building but failed.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and chanted in the Nest. Other protesters tried to enter the Nest through an unlocked door and were momentarily obstructed by police from entering the building.

Protestors being blocked from entering the Nest by RCMP.
Protestors being blocked from entering the Nest by RCMP. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Some protesters attempted to disrupt the BC NDP Forward conference on the Nest’s second floor but were stopped by locked stairwell doors, police officers and private security.

Police officers blocking the stairs to the NDP conference on the second level of the Nest.
Police officers blocking the stairs to the NDP conference on the second level of the Nest. Spencer Izen / The Ubyssey

Protesters demonstrated in front of the Nest’s main stairwell, which was blocked by five police officers, only moving to allow conference attendees to get through. Some attendees cheered on the protesters and joined the crowd. Two other attendees participating in the protesters’ chants sat on the stairwell behind the police line and waved miniature Palestinian flags.

For the next hour, the protesters chanted “Free, Free Palestine” and “From Turtle Island to Palestine, occupation is a crime,” as the conference proceeded on the floor above.

Protestors inside the Nest.
Protestors inside the Nest. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

At 3 p.m., protesters left the Nest and entered the Hennings Building, which was scheduled to host two NDP campaign training events later that day. Protesters entered through a back door and occupied the foyer, placing banners across the stairwell that read “In 2023, UBC invested $113 million into maintaining the Israeli occupation” and “Support for BC NDP = Support for genocide.”

Protestors inside Hennings.
Protestors inside Hennings. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Around 3:50 p.m., police entered Hennings and moved to the back of the room. An RCMP officer yelled that all those who did not exit the building would be arrested and charged with mischief.

Protesters began to leave. One protester was arrested by University RCMP. The Ubyssey asked police three times why the person was arrested, but no officers answered.

This is the second encampment-related arrest. On May 29, West Vancouver activist and UBC alum Susan Bibbings was arrested for refusing to move off a road in solidarity with the encampment and Palestine.

A protestor being arrested.
A protestor being arrested. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Protesters left Hennings, asking police officers why the protester was arrested. Outside Hennings, one protester on a megaphone shared their experience with police on campus days prior. While speaking to a Delta police officer, they expressed concern for the arrested protester and called on the officers to ensure body cam footage is being collected and that a female officer was present.

The Delta police officer later confirmed to protesters that body cam footage was being taken and a female officer was present.

Protestors speaking to police officers.
Protestors speaking to police officers. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Protesters conducted a sit-in outside of Hennings in solidarity with the arrested protester while roughly two dozen police officers stood in front of Hennings’ main entrance.

Protestors outside Hennings with police officers blocking the entrance.
Protestors outside Hennings with police officers blocking the entrance. Spencer Izen / The Ubyssey

The arrested protester was moved to the University RCMP detachment, and protesters asked community members for jail support via Instagram story. According to People’s University UBC, the protester was released by University RCMP at 5:24 p.m.

“UBC has a duty and obligation to protect its students and alumni and continues to completely fail to do so,” wrote People’s University UBC in an Instagram post. “Instead, they use police to surveil and intimidate us.”

“The BC NDP government is taking action to support people impacted in BC, including providing security funding to mosques and synagogues to protect people from hate-motivated crimes, bringing in a helpline to report racist incidents, and introducing new anti-racism laws to tackle all forms of hate,” wrote BC NDP President Aaron Sumexheltza in a statement to The Ubyssey.

Sumexheltza did not confirm if any scheduled June 1 Forward conference events were affected by protesters.

People’s University UBC and University RCMP did not respond to The Ubyssey’s request for comment by press time.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.