On Saturday, May 11th 2024 at 4:30am the Edmonton Police Service’s so-called “Public Safety” Unit arrived on our campus at the direction of U of A President Bill Flanagan to aggressively assault peacefully protesting students, faculty, staff, and community members at the People’s University for Palestine encampment. Students, Faculty, Staff, and community members were subject to violent assaults from police including the use of metal billy bats, gas, and ‘non-lethal’ projectiles all at the direction of the University of Alberta. 

Shame on President Bill Flanagan for ordering police to assault students and community members exercising their right to protest, hiding under the excuse of “public safety.” Community safety at the People’s University for Palestine was maintained and upheld until police arrived and began assaulting students and community members. The only violence enacted at the camp was instigated and carried out by the police. 

Since ordering this violent assault on the students he is meant to protect, Flanagan has engaged in a policy of deceiving the public and minimizing the institution’s responsibility for the assault of its own students, faculty, staff, and community members. In recent public statements, Flanagan has disturbingly tried to justify his violence by identifying some of the items police stole from students, including needles for medical equipment, and tent pegs and hammers for assembling signs and tents. This is knowing deception of the public and university community.

We also want to emphasize that the encampment was made up of a high percentage of Jewish and Muslim students. Mere hours before the attack, many Jewish instructors and students held a Seder ceremony before being beaten by police for their spiritual resistance against genocide.

As the Muslim Students Association wrote in their powerful response to this violence:

“the safety of the campus community cannot be prioritized, as the university claims to be doing in their recent statement, when the university orders the police to forcefully dismantle a peaceful protest through violent means, resulting in physical and mental harm to students and faculty. Moving forward we advise students not to accept university communications as fact without first verifying it.”

Instead of assaulting students, we demand that Bill Flanagan meet with them and fulfill their demands. These are the same students who pay his salary and without whom this institution would cease to have a purpose. The University of British Columbia currently discloses its investments. It’s a very reasonable ask to disclose and divest university investments that enable genocide. Students deserve to know what their tuition is funding. Especially when year after year the university sneakily pushes through more and more tuition increases while students and staff are left with less and less. 

Shame on the U of A for knowingly subjecting students, staff, alumni, and community members to police violence. We demand the immediate removal of Bill Flanagan from his role as President due to his violence, deception, and loss of community trust.

Students have a democratic right to protest against the Apartheid state of Israel and the ongoing genocide of Palestinians. There are no universities left in Gaza. We demand that no student, faculty, or staff be banned from our campus or punished for exercising these rights and that the university withdraws threats of sanctions to students, faculty, and staff exercising them. This is our campus, we cannot be trespassing in our own community.

APIRG joins the People’s University for Palestine in demanding that the University of Alberta:

  • Disclose institutional and financial investments with Israeli institutions and all companies financially complicit in the occupation, and thus the current genocide of Palestinians. 
  • Divest from complicit companies and all such investments.
  • Defend the right to protest by giving amnesty to any and all participants of this encampment.
  • Declare via an immediate statement its condemnation of this genocide and call on the Canadian government to end all military contracts with the Zionist state.

We demand that the University of Alberta’s Students Union (UASU) and the Graduate Students Association (GSA) stand in solidarity with their students and carry forward the calls for disclosure, divestment, defense, and a declaration from the University.

If the UASU and GSA want to serve as legitimate representative bodies responsive to the needs of their community, they will use their power and influence to take immediate action in supporting the demands of People’s University for Palestine.

Free Palestine.

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