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University of Guelph protestors demand divestment from companies supporting war in Gaza

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Standing in solidarity – that’s the message coming out of an encampment at the University of Guelph.

Students and community members have set up tents and signs as part of a protest against the war in Gaza.

Waida Mirzada, a student member of the “U of G for Palestine” group, said they’ve been waiting since January for information on the school’s endowment portfolio.

“[We] demand divestment [from] the University of Guelph,” she added.

The school said, in a statement released Tuesday: “Prior to the unauthorized encampment, U of G had received a divestment submission under its Special Action Policy and it is being reviewed in accordance with university processes and procedures. The individuals who submitted their request to the university were invited to provide additional input and speak about their submission directly to the Finance Committee.”

Encampments have popped up on campuses throughout Canada, including at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo.

Protestors are calling on institutions to cut ties with companies who are supporting Israel’s war efforts.

“A message of unity among other campuses but, most importantly, it’s about Gaza. It’s about Palestine and it’s about the people being killed,” explained Firoza Farooqi, another student member of the “U of G for Palestine” group.

Not everyone on campus, however, is comfortable with the presence of protestors.

Jake Levy, the president of Guelph Hillel, said Jewish students are feeling uneasy about the protest, some even going as far as hiding their identity.

“Many students who would normally wear a kippah, won’t wear a kippah, or would wear the Star of David, who won’t. There are people who feel they can’t express their Jewish identity on campus unless they’re in a group.”

While the Jewish student organization supports peaceful protests, Levy said not everyone is happy with the way they’ve been carried out.

“The way that these encampments have gone on around the world is not something that the Jewish community supports overall,” he said.

In Tuesday’s statement, the university added: “U of G has a steadfast commitment to the principle of freedom of speech and a responsibility to create and maintain spaces for open dialogue and the free exchange of ideas and diverging opinions. We also have an obligation to foster an environment where everyone can study, work and live without discrimination.”

The protestors who spoke with CTV News say they’ll remain at the encampment until the university meets with them and addresses their demands.

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