Protestors occupy President’s Office, call on UBC to give additional statement on encampment demands

On May 15, around 50 protestors affiliated with the Palestinian solidarity encampment occupied the seventh floor of Koerner Library to call on UBC to release a statement within 24 hours responding to the encampment’s demands.

The demands of organizers, People’s University UBC, include divesting from companies complicit in Palestinian human rights abuses, boycotting Israeli universities and publicly condemning what organizers and human rights experts call a genocide in Gaza.

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

UBC President Benoit-Antoine Bacon released a statement responding to each of the Palestinian solidarity encampment’s demands on May 16.

In the statement, Bacon wrote “this posting is a public statement and informs our community of our willingness to engage in reasoned dialogue with student representatives of the protest encampment.”

Around 4 p.m. on May 15, protesters lined up along the stairwell and gathered around the UBC President’s Office with Palestinian flags, banners, a speaker and a microphone. This demonstration followed a May 11 occupation of the UBC Bookstore and a May 13 vigil at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre.

The Ubyssey had one reporter inside Koerner Library. Campus Security did not allow additional press-pass-bearing Ubyssey reporters to enter.

At 5:30 p.m., a group of RCMP officers and two Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers spoke to protest organizers inside and said people who did not leave the building would be arrested.

Some protesters vacated the space and began demonstrating outside Koerner Library — 17 community members stayed inside Koerner Library.

Outside, protestors chanted, drew on the building and sidewalk with chalk and waved Palestinian flags from the building’s roof.

Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

At 6 p.m., RCMP officers said library management had closed Koerner Library and protestors who stayed would be charged under section 430 of the Criminal Code.

A protester asked how they were committing mischief and an officer said “You can ask your lawyer when you get arrested.”

Around 6:40 p.m., protesters spoke to Campus Security Director Sam Stephens about their demands. Stephens said he was not authorized to deliver a public address on the UBC President’s behalf but could deliver the protestor’s request directly to the president.

A protester asked Stephens if he could confirm in writing that he will give demands to Bacon and ask him to respond publicly. Protesters said once Bacon provides a public response that directly addresses all of their demands, they will leave the library.

At 7:07 p.m., Stephens returned with a letter confirming he will take the protestor’s list of demands and request for a response to Bacon. He also requested protestors leave the library.

Around 7:15 p.m., an officer gave another warning to protestors.

“This is your final warning. Library management has closed the library, you've been asked to leave under section 430 of the Criminal Code of Canada,” said an officer.

“You’re committing mischief by the obstruction, interruption of lawful use and enjoyment, or operation, of this property. You’re gonna be arrested. You’ve been asked to leave. If you have any questions, you can talk to me.”

Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

The protesters instead directed their questions to Campus Security’s Programs Manager Manmohan Mand. A protester said Mand is “allowing the cops to arrest us when we're simply demanding a response for an hour.”

“All I can say is everyone has a job to do,” Mand said. “You’ve been here, you’ve had your say … your voices have been heard. Your voices are being carried out. We’re just asking you [to leave] because this building is closed, you can’t stay here.”

At 7:33 p.m., Stephens said UBC VP Students Ainsley Carry would come to speak with protestors.

Outside Koerner Library, protesters stood near the Old Administration Building where Carry’s office is. As Carry walked into Koerner Library, protesters called on him to ensure students were not arrested by the RCMP.

As of May 21, no arrests regarding the UBC encampment have occurred.

Protesters asked Carry if he was getting UBC to implement their demands. He said he was committed to starting a discussion. Carry also expressed his “preference” that demonstrators vacate the building.

“We are now 222 days into a genocide. I don't know how much more discussing anybody of us has in us. I don't know how to discuss and convince the university to see Palestinians as human,” a protester said. “Action needs to happen, not discussion.”

Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Carry said he hasn’t spoken to these students in particular about the encampment’s demands and said this is his “first time seeing this list.” Protesters said these demands have been publicly available since April 29, the encampment’s first day — Carry attended the encampment’s rally on April 29.

Around 8 p.m., protesters escorted by Campus Security left Koerner Library chanting “Disclose. Divest. We will not stop. We will not rest.”

Protesters from inside Koerner Library and from the demonstration outside gathered together and marched to the Life Science Building, where two students read statements to the UBC Vancouver Senate, calling on UBC to cut ties with Israeli universities.

As protestors dispersed from Koerner Library, an organizer spoke into the protest’s microphone about UBC’s response to the encampment.

“From the bottom of my heart, fuck this university and fuck every last administrator.”

Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey