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Quebec higher education minister condemns pro-Palestinian protest at Concordia building

Concordia University is seen in Montreal, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. McGill and Concordia Universities are suing the Quebec government over its decision to hike tuition for out-of-province students by 30 per cent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi Concordia University is seen in Montreal, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. McGill and Concordia Universities are suing the Quebec government over its decision to hike tuition for out-of-province students by 30 per cent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi
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Quebec's minister of higher education says she "strongly" condemns a protest by pro-Palestinian supporters who briefly occupied a building at Concordia University on Monday.

A shelter-in-place alert for the GM building was sent to the university community at 9:46 a.m. after protesters entered the lobby. About half-an-hour later, the order was lifted

According to a communique sent by Michael Di Grappa, Concordia's vice-president of services and sustainability, "A small group of masked protesters (about 20) entered the lobby at around 9:15 a.m., blocked access to doors and vandalized the lobby with graffiti."

"The police (SVPM) were immediately called and the protestors left less than an hour after arriving," the email said. "The incident is being investigated by Campus Safety and Prevention Services (CSPS) and the SVPM, and the graffiti will be removed once the SPVM has concluded its investigation."

A video posted on the Instagram account of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia showed a group of protesters chanting in the building's entrance. A description of the video explained that protesters were calling for Concordia to divest in companies with ties to Israel.

SPHR wrote in another post that protesters left Concordia administration "quite a few messages that they cannot ignore." One of their social media videos showed painted messages on the walls and windows of the GM building lobby, including "Free Palestine," "Don't defend genocide," and "Divest!"

Higher Education Minister Pascale DĂ©ry wrote in a post on X that the protesters actions were "unacceptable."

"Enough is enough!" she wrote. "Once again, I appeal for calm. There are so many ways to express ourselves without resorting to intimidation, incitement to hatred and vandalism on our campuses."

Montreal police confirmed they were called to the university Monday morning and that protesters left on their own. Some of them went to join the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) pro-Palestinian encampment, according to police spokesperson Caroline Chevrefils.

She said no arrests have been made.

Concordia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CTV News Monday evening.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante also took to social media to denounce the protesters.

"The conflict in the Middle East rightly arouses concern and strong emotions. But acts of vandalism targeting Montreal institutions, such as Concordia today, cannot be tolerated," she wrote in a post on X.

"Demonstrating is a fundamental right that can and must be expressed with civic-mindedness."

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