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Pro-Palestinian activists briefly occupy VIU administration building

Nanaimo RCMP were on standby, with a number of police officers and their vehicles on campus
A group of pro-Palestinian activists inside a VIU administration building in Nanaimo on Tuesday. SUBMITTED

Pro-Palestinian activists briefly occupied an administration building in Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus on Tuesday afternoon.

Police were on standby, with a number of officers on campus.

Reserve Const. Gary O’Brien of Nanaimo RCMP said eight or nine pro-Palestinian protesters who were in the building just before 4 p.m appeared to be peaceful and sat on the ground playing music.

“VIU has told them that they’re in a restricted area and are requesting that they leave. We are just standing by and just following directions from VIU,” he said.

The protesters eventually left on their own. A protester who occupied the building and did not want to give their name told the Times Colonist that they decided to leave at the end of the work day.

Staff in the building left quickly after the protesters occupied the building, the person said.

In a statement, the protest group said they wanted to put additional pressure on VIU beyond the pro-Palestinian encampment established on campus grounds May 1.

The group said they occupied the building during a third round of talks between VIU and representatives of the pro-Palestine encampment.

“From staying neutral on genocide to surveilling students we are here to say no more business as usual at VIU,” the statement said. “This action has been taken to pressure VIU to meet the Palestine Solidarity Encampments demands and to challenge the university to use its power and influence in the movement to end the genocide in Palestine.”

The statement sent to media was simultaneously posted to the social media accounts of two Cowichan Valley-area pro-Palestinian groups.

Talks between encampment protesters and VIU broke down Monday after protesters refused to provide assurances that convocation ceremonies would be free of disruptions as a pre-condition to dialogue.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the encampment said that the university has disclosed information about its investments to encampment representatives and they are reviewing it. “We hope to continue good-faith dialogue as soon as possible.”

In a statement, VIU said university officials met with protesters, “shared information and received a commitment from the Palestine Solidarity Encampment that their organization would not disrupt convocation ceremonies.” But about a dozen protesters entered a restricted administration area and stayed despite being repeatedly asked to leave during a two-hour period. The protesters eventually left through an open window, the VIU statement said.

Convocation ceremonies begin today.

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