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BREAKING: Student alleges TMU director of community safety ‘grabbed’ and ‘pushed’ demonstrator at BoG meeting

By An Eyeopener staff

Student demonstrators were caught live-streaming the Board of Governors (BoG) meeting at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) on April 30 and were physically escorted out, a member* of Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) alleges.

The SJP member* who was at the BoG meeting said the director of community safety at TMU, Denise Campbell, allegedly “grabbed” a student filming the event.

In the live-stream video which is available online on the SJP’s Instagram account, demonstrators can be heard yelling, “Don’t touch me,” and “Don’t put your hands on me,” after being approached by Campbell.

“Instead of telling that member ‘there’s no filming’, she immediately escalated and started physically grabbing them to stop them from recording and to kick them out and she was shoving people against each other,” the SJP member* said.

The SJP then took to their social media with a post stating “Denise Campbell, executive director of community safety at TMU, assaults Palestinian students to keep them safe,” with the caption, “WHO DO YOU PROTECT @TORONTOMET

In an emailed statement sent to The Eyeopener on Wednesday, the university said it “rejects any assertion or allegation that our Campus Safety and Security team behaved inappropriately at yesterday’s Board of Governors meeting.”

The statement further reads that guests at BoG meetings must “conduct themselves respectfully, as per the Board meeting rules” which they said are “clearly” posted on the TMU website.

While BoG meetings are open to the public, the university said attendees are not permitted to take personal recordings of the meeting, as the meeting itself is live-streamed and an official recording is made for record keeping purposes. 

The university said students were told this as a condition for presenting at the meeting, which the university said demonstrators “clearly ignored per their own social media posts.”

The statement concluded that the school ​appreciates that students are passionate about human rights. 

“We respect our students’ right to protest but that does not extend to personal attacks or harassment of TMU staff, especially those who have supported these same students for the past several months,” the statement reads. 

The disruption at the BoG meeting was planned by TMU students in the midst of widespread North American campus encampments opposing Israeli military action in Gaza and demanding schools to divest from companies they claim are profiting from the conflict.

The series of campus encampents erupted after pro-Palestinian student protestors were arrested at Columbia University in New York City on April 18, according to The Washington Post

This lead to more pro-Palestinian campus encampments in North America including at McGill University and the University of British Columbia.

This week at TMU, access to the Kerr Quad was restricted with fences and signs that read “Closed for spring maintenance and for protection due to concerns about unauthorized activity.” 

Similar signs and fences were put up over the weekend enclosing parts of the University of Toronto campus fields.

As previously reported by The Eye, student demonstrators said they filed a Freedom of Information request for TMU to disclose its investments under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in Ontario but the university denied the request.

As previously reported, The Eye obtained parts of the university’s decision letter sent on April 2 which states, “Section 17(1) of FIPPA (third-party information): the University applied this section to the records as it contains information that reveals financial information supplied in confidence implicitly or explicitly to the University.”

According to section 17.1 of FIPPA, universities are allowed to deny an FOI request if they are sensitive to their commercial activities. 

The decision letter also outlines section 18.1 of FIPPA, “the University also applied this section to information in the records that the University has identified as financial information that has monetary value or potential monetary value where the disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice the economic interests or competitive position or be injurious to the financial interests of the University.”

The SJP member* told The Eye in an email on May 1 that while the university ultimately responded to the FIPPA request, they haven’t responded to students asking them to disclose this information for the past few months.

In an interview with The Eye, the SJP member* said students at TMU have been “seeking administration for months” to disclose their investments. 

“Administration has kind of been very short with us” the SJP member* said. “They have made empty promises, and they have ignored our demands.”

They said after seeing students across North America start encampments to get their administration to listen to their demands, students at TMU felt it was “their duty” to do the same.

“[We] started with disrupting the Board of Governors meeting. And we invited our community to come join us for a sit-in to show TMU that we are going to keep showing up for Palestine,” the SJP member* said. “We’re going to keep showing up. And we’re going to keep escalating further until they meet our demands and they listen and they hear us out.” 

After being removed from the BoG meeting, the student activists from TMU and participants from across the city held a community sit-in on campus to demand the full disclosure of the school’s investments, endowments and donors, among other calls to action, as previously reported by The Eye

This story will be updated as it develops. 

*This student is a member of SJP who has asked to remain anonymous to protect their privacy given the critical political circumstances.

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