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Montreal police arrest 15, disperse McGill pro-Palestinian protesters with pepper spray

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Montreal police (SPVM) say 15 people were arrested after officers used tear gas to disperse pro-Palestinian protesters at McGill university after they barricaded themselves in the administration building as part of a "global call to action."

The Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill said that they entered the James Administration Building "demanding McGill cut ties with genocide."

Police in riot gear confronted the crowd outside of the building and fired tear gas in an effort to disperse the crowd shortly after 7 p.m.

The crowd reformed shortly after and began using shelves and other items to build a barricade between themselves and police.

Police then used tear gas and pepper spray about 40 minutes later and the crowd dispersed.

Montreal police respond to a protest at McGill University on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Kelly Greig/CTV News)

The group leading the occupation said that the university has "repressed every institutional channel through which they expressed the student will for a policy against genocide."

The protesters at McGill have called for the university to divest of financial holdings in companies linked to Israel's war with Hamas.

The SPHR listed Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems, and Thales as examples of companies they want McGill to divest from and boycott.

SPHR McGill spokesperson Rama Al-Malah told CTV News that the group is not preventing anyone from leaving the building and that there has been no confrontation with security.

She said initially there were around 50 to 60 protesters taking part and they have called for more to join them. 

Police remained on the campus and the crowd reformed outside of the Roddick Gates on Sherbrooke Street.

Officers say the operation ended at 10:30 p.m. with 13 people arrested for breaking and entering and two others arrested for obstructing police work.

In a statement, McGill University thanked police officers "for their expertise in handling the situation."

"Some staff were forced to shelter in place while those occupying the building banged on the doors and yelled threats," the university said. "Staff working in the building reported that they heard chants of 'violence now.'"

McGill goes on to say that though it supports the right to freedom of expression "within the limits recognized by law," it condemns "the use of intimidating, aggressive, harassing or illegal tactics such as those seen."

"None of this is peaceful protesting; it is designed to threaten, coerce and scare people," the school states. "It is completely unacceptable."

University officials say they had previously attempted to re-open discussions with encampment leaders.

"Yet, McGill’s offer, which is comparable to that made by other universities who have reached resolutions, has been rejected by the encampment on our campus," it said.

Pro-palestinian demonstrators have been camping out on McGill's lower field since April, demanding the university severe investments linked to Israel.

Pro-Palestinian supporters gather at McGill University on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Kelly Greig/CTV News)

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