One person was reportedly arrested and three were injured in a confrontation between pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel students at Concordia University on Wednesday.
A series of videos of the confrontation, which happened in front of a table set up calling for Hamas to release the hostages, have gone viral on social media. The videos show the pro-Palestinian protesters chanting, “Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire Now” toward the Jewish students. One video appeared to show a female pro-Palestinian protester calling a Jewish student a “f—ing k—” and accusing the student of “pinkwashing.” Other videos appeared to show students shoving each and needing to be restrained and students in an apparent tug of war with an Israeli flag.
"Anti-Israel protestors" attacked them, yelling verbal assaults, shoving & harassing them.
This targeting of Jewish students on campus is… pic.twitter.com/WFMdKBr10E
— CIJA (@CIJAinfo) November 8, 2023
🚨HAPPENING NOW AT @Concordia
— HonestReporting Canada (@HonestRepCanada) November 8, 2023
— Aviva Klompas (@AvivaKlompas) November 8, 2023
Here, you can see “activists” taunting and threatening Jewish students with violence after a solidarity demonstration for the kidnapped in Gaza. One girl said, “We’ll see you after class, be ready.” pic.twitter.com/XlG9U6YHFX
— איתן (@YehudiGadol) November 8, 2023
The Montreal Gazette reported that, according to Montreal police, a 22-year-old female student was arrested for allegedly assaulting a 54-year-old security guard; a 19-year-old security guard and 23-year-old student also sustained minor injuries in the clash, per the Gazette.
CTV News Montreal spoke to Concordia student Eitan Kovac, a witness to the clash, who said shortly after the table was set up, pro-Palestinian protesters began yelling at them. “People were seconds away from assailing others, throwing stuff,” Kovac told the outlet. “We had a few incidents where people were throwing water bottles at us or decided to come to our booth and try to remove the Israeli flag or to remove pictures or posters of children, infants, elderly or anyone in between that is currently kidnapped and in Gaza.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Federation CJA said in a press release that the Jewish students “were pushed around, harassed and faced a barrage of hate speech, including slurs,” according to the CBC.
CTV News Montreal also spoke to a witness named Sarah Shamy, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Youth Movement but who is not a student at Concordia. Shamy told the outlet that a group selling Palestinian keffiyehs had booked a table in the same area and time as the Jewish students; she claimed that “the pro-Israel students were very hostile and were using anti-Palestinian names, they were calling people names, they were provoking students, they were getting in people’s faces.” She then alleged that pro-Palestinian students were attacked once they started chanting pro-Palestinian slogans.
A spokesperson for the university told the Journal in an email, “Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups, including students but also people from outside our community, were in the Hall building today. Our Campus Safety and Prevention Services were present and as they were concerned about the safety of people there and an agent was injured, they contacted the SPVM [Montreal police] to clear demonstrators. We do not tolerate intimidation or violence on our campus and we will be looking further into today’s incident. The safety of our community is our priority.”
Concordia President and Vice Chancellor Graham Carr said in a statement on Wednesday, “Today, there were three separate incidents on campus in which violence or incitement to violence took place. These incidents violate our values, our Code of Rights and Responsibilities and, in certain cases, are unlawful. Specifically, a student group issued a social media post that could reasonably be construed as inciting violence. Second, a violent altercation involving some students and some individuals external to our community occurred on the mezzanine of the Hall building. Police were called after two members of our Campus Safety and Prevention Services team who had tried to intervene were physically attacked and an ambulance had to be called. A student was also injured.”
Carr added that swastikas were found in a university building. “The university unreservedly condemns these deplorable acts and will make every effort to identify and bring those responsible to account for their behaviour,” he said.
Carr later said in the statement, “Clearly, the events of today must force each and every one of us to reflect on what we need to do—individually and collectively–to ensure that Concordia remains an extraordinary, vibrant place of teaching, learning and research. Unfortunately, some members both inside and outside our community are deliberately abusing the privileged place that universities afford society as stewards of tolerance, open and respectful exchange. We will continue to meet with student groups and university community leaders to reinforce the importance of upholding our shared responsibilities.”