The People’s Circle of Palestine: (U of T Encampment) Eye Witness Report

Monday 29-Apr-2024 (Day-2)

Over the weekend, the world talked about development of the student protests around the world. The students of UofT wake up to statements issued by the university administration and a fenced off King’s College Circle. The fence is the type that is easy to remove by lifting up on the u-shaped tab joining it together.

Another announcement: “Unauthorized activities such as encampments or the occupation of University buildings are considered trespassing,” says a letter sent by @UofT admin today. If they don’t like trespassing, they must hate having ties to “Israeli” universities that set up camp in the West Bank.

Thursday 2-MAY-2024 (Day 1)

After much delay from the establishment of the Columbia Encampment, the students of the University of Toronto established theirs at St. George campus by occupying the lawn in the middle of King’s College Circle by 0400 in the morning.

I arrived at UofT by 2000 to witness the fencing to be still up save for the north side. There is an Exectek vehicle blocking the route to Anatomy lane on the southeast side of the lawn. The fence is dressed by signs put up by the protestors. One of the signs has a Free Syrian Army flag.

At the north side there is a gap where a fence was removed by a squad of marshals, between 5 and 10. Students are calling it the door which has an entrance on one side and an exit on the other. The fence that was removed was placed outside the fencing on the west side of the door. The marshals are well disciplined in that they maintain a hard line to restrict access onto the lawn. Only those with requested supplies are allowed to enter, people with wooden skids. The marshal says that cops are surrounding the campus. Everyone is masked except for a lead marshal, that they have one is a great sign that the marshals have a hierarchy and is a break from the anarchism that we’ve seen in the encampments south of the border. The marshals cut the opening onto the lawn, which is one fence wide, into an entrance and an exit. The marshals are strictly restricting access onto the lawn until the rally outside the fencing finishes at 2200. The door is blocked by marshals, a bike, and canvas (the material to make banners). The marshals would rather people stay outside the fencing until the rally finishes because the lawn needs to be defended from the state and Zionists once the rally outside finishes at 2200. The marshals even denied entrance to someone with camping equipment and full masking, keffiyeh and Palestinian flags. In defense of the marshals, that day was very crowded and people were moving too quickly for the marshals to be vetted. The marshals tend to seek a one on one interaction between each new joiner.

The marshals are not affiliated with PYM but are members of a UofT student group. The lawn, from what can be seen from the outside, is full of people with tents. The marshals are saying that they have enough toilet paper, food, and water. But they are requesting people to bring buckets. Every now and then, teams of two bring in empty wooden skids. The encampment hasn’t constructed a washroom on the lawn yet. If someone inside the fencing needs to use the washroom, they need to exit with a marshal or an escort. If a marshal recognises someone by face then only they will be let in. There are two people in the crowd with snare drums.


The rally, which is due to end at 2200, outside the fencing, is led by chants called from protestors inside the fencing to the west of the entrance to the lawn. In attendance you have the students and representatives of organizations: ILPS, UofT alum, CUPE, RCP, Jews Say No to Zionism. The entrance outside the fencing has, on the side, a small mountain of food and water that have been rejected by the marshals.

Chants heard:

  • All the Zionists are terrorists
  • All the Zionists are racists
  • All the Zionists are The Real Terrorists
  • Free free Palestine
  • Viva Viva Palestina
  • Viva Viva Intifada
  • Intifada Intifada
  • Resistance is justified when people are occupied
  • There is only one solution. Intifada revolution
  • Hey hey Palestine
  • End the siege on Gaza now
  • End the siege let them breath
  • We will not stop, we will not rest. Disclose! Divest!
  • *clap* *clap* resistance
  • There is no confusion, this is the revolution
  • Divest your institution, this is the revolution
  • From the river to the sea, Palestine is almost free
  • From the sea to the river, Palestine will love forever

The chant lead then instructs over a microphone: “Make some noise if you are actually Palestinian” and then “Make some noise if you are not actually Palestinian”. The noise from the latter was much louder, indicating the degree of international solidarity.

quotes I remember from a speech given:

“Every single one of you needs to internalize the revolutionary intifada.”

“One day inshallah when Palestine is liberated, it will be because of you. You are something a part of something greater than yourself.”

“We are fighting for liberation not peace. Peace is a white man’s word”

“Salute the resistance in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Yemen”

Someone else inside the fencing gives an announcement: “We need sleeping bags, tents and buckets. Please bring these items to the entrance. You know where the entrance is.”


OCAD students spotted in support.

Chants continue,

  • The students united will never be defeated
  • Free the people, free the land
  • No peace on stolen land
  • Free free Gaza
  • What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.
Photo from outside the fencing. Tree is inside the fencing. Tree has the Mohawk warrior flag as well
An announcement is given saying that someone, a young girl, from Gaza is watching what's going on at UofT live.

The exit, مخرج (makhraj). Note the “Jews for a Free Palestine” sign next to it. The mainstream media keeps trying to erase the existence of anti-Zionist Jewish people.

A new chant: “we will win”

Speech is being given by someone who just came from Gaza. He instructs the crowd to give a peace sign for the camera and tell the girl currently in Gaza that we love her.

The entrance, مدخل (madkhal)

The entrance is still full of people trying to get in. They are arguing with marshals who are diplomatically trying to explain that we’re all on the same side and that they need to be patient. I mean if the marshals don’t let people in even at 2200, so what. The lawn belongs to the students and it’s up to them what call they make. Marshal at entrance are saying that the students are willing to be charged, for trespassing for an example.

Analysis: what does holding onto a lawn materially achieve? Well other than competing with the cost of living since people are sleeping over (see how violently the state responds to homeless encampments). The stated goals so far is to disclose and divest from investments on projects that facilitate the Zionist occupation of Palestine. How does occupying the lawn achieve this goal?

The exit sign fell down. It’s not held securely. Held by tension between the fencing and the sign with the caricature, see photo above. So there’s no exit sign.

After the speech by the comrade recently from Gaza, the mic is handed over to a student representative. The university sent the students a message, “why haven’t you informed us of a student liaison to negotiate for us?” which the rep is calling bullshit on.


People who are planning to camp overnight are invited inside. But at the entrance, marshals aren’t letting anyone in.


  • No justice, no peace. No racist police

Inside the fencing is a lot of green space. It’s less crowded on the lawn than the area north of the lawn where all the crowd still is. The crowd is between the north fence, the library, Hart House Circle. I’ve no idea of the extent of the west side of the crowd. The west side, away from the entrance and where the speeches come from, the crowd is less dense. The crowd ends after the entrance to the library after which it’s bare tiled pavement. On the west side there is a white unmarked SUV, a UofT special constable is in the driver’s seat.

Speech is given by a survivor of the residential school system. She says that she’s a monarch of Northern Turtle Island. She says this land belongs to the Indigenous people and that she grants permission to the students for being here. “Land back!”

Because the crowd is thinner on the west, it’s easier to peer in behind the fence. Inside the fence is a pile of fencing, 30-40 fences high. As well as some feet for the fences.

New chant: “TPS, KKK, IOF you are all the same”

Northwest side of the circle looking at the lawn with camera over the fence. CN tower with Ukraine colours but with red on top as if to say, “cry for Ukraine soaked in blood”.

Within the fencing you have a bubble of fencing guarding the stack of fences and fence feet.

Speech (verbatim quotes I hear): “why do we need to be peaceful when there is a genocide happening?”

“Why do we have to be peaceful?”

“They don’t deserve peace”

“I will never be peaceful”

They are Indigenous to Turtle Island.

“No more peace I promise you that”


New chant: “1 we are the students 2 we won’t be silenced 3 disclose, divest now now now now”

The marshals at the entrance are only allowing people onto the lawn and inside the fencing after they have been onboarded. If one hasn’t been onboarded yet, they are going to have to come back tomorrow. Onboarding seems like a vetting process of some kind.

New chant: “min el-mayeh lil-mayeh, Falastin Arabiyeh”

Nothing has changed at the entrance despite it being past 2200. Apparently the cops were supposed to come at 2200 but then haven’t arrived yet.

People are bringing lots of buckets and tarp which the marshals are accepting. The marshals are taking the items without letting the people making deliveries in.

The marshals say that the onboarding process will restart at 7am.

  • Link to gdoc form to a sign up sheet to an open letter. The students are inviting current or former members of the UofT community (staff, faculty, alumni, students, TAs, lecturers, etc.) to sign on. The form indicates that after pressure, people outside the UofT community were allowed to sign on as well. Letter is addressed to Meric Gertler’s office as well as the office of various University of Toronto leadership and admin and will be shared publicly. Email addresses of sendee aren’t included. Letter links to an IG post, from April 1st when the students occupied Simcoe Hall, that lists the students’ demands. The demands are the same now as then:
    • Divest the university’s endowment, pension fund, and other financial holdings from all companies that provide Israel with military goods or services which sustain the Israeli apartheid, occupation and illegal settlement of the Palestinian territories, as well as the ongoing attacks on Gaza.
    • Terminate all partnerships with Israeli academic institutions that operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or sustain the apartheid policies, occupation and illegal settlement of these territories
    • Publicly disclose all investments (including names of holdings and portfolio shares) from endowments, the pension fund, short-term working capital assets, and other financial holdings of the University

The letter talks about the destruction of universities, colleges, and educational facilities in Palestine which is called a “scholasticide”. It links the historical precedent of UofT rectifying its complicity in genocidal crimes (implied reference to liberal laws) as in the South African apartheid. Letter has 848 signees.

  • Link to gdoc form of a petition to support the 20 students that occupied President Meric Gertler’s office in Simcoe Hall. This is old news from April 1st. The students have since retreated from that office.
  • Links to three articles by journalist Fernando Arce on
    • U of T students occupy president’s office for Palestine (April 3rd)
    • After occupation, students meet with U of T president (April 4th)
    • University of Toronto declines to divest from pro-Israel institutions (April 11th)
  • Letter from university president on April 1st
  • Letter in response to the president on April 15th. Letter is written in a scholarly voice and contains footnotes. Letter is signed by “UofT Occupy for Palestine”, referencing the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 which is fresh in the minds of students. That movement failed because no one knew what to do after occupying. Will students know what to do after occupying a circular lawn?


Telegram channel is read only. First announcement is timed at 0435. 2906 people have subscribed to the channel with 21 people leaving negative emojis.

From the telegram:

  • The People’s Circle of Palestine is the name they have given to the circle instead of “King’s College Circle”
  • The encampment is declared by the students to be secured by 0542
  • 0708: calls for “Coffee, tea, snacks, and prepared meals” are inmade.
  • 0806: they now have more than enough food
  • 1156: announcement for a rally at 1900 and that UofT administration sent an email saying that the students are not allowed to protest after 2200. Students took this as a threat of police involvement by 2200. The students state their demand: “divestment, disclosure, and an academic boycott of complicit Israeli universities”.
  • 1233: linktree is created
  • 1612: call out for support against Zionist counter protestors who are expected to come at 1600
  • 1815: includes a time line of the day:
    • the Zionists did come at 1600
    • 1900 is when a rally is starting outside the lawn on the North, outside the fence
    • After 2100, is when they expect the cops to come

Once onboarded one is added to a signal chat.

Speech is given criticising the silence of the general public while there is a genocide happening.

People brought more drums.

Speeches and chants end at 2315. General mood is that nothing is happening until onboarding starts again in the morning, but cops could show up once people leave. People continue to bring in wooden skids. Skids could be used to elevate sleeping bags from the wet ground. That’s what we used them for during the NSN student protest in Mississauga in the Summer of 2023. Lead marshal is advising people to clear the entrance and come back tomorrow. If people wish to stay until the cops come back, they can stay but away from the entrance.


Two Zionists confront the crowd from the northeast

Photo of two Zionists debating about how to engage with us

Special constables talking to them.

Six Zionists

They were about to leave but a 40-50 year old supporter taunted them. The students didn’t like the supporter doing this since they wished for the Zionists to de-escalate and go home.


Campus security is parked on the northwest side of Gerstein Science Information Centre.

Student guarding the door, Iranian atheist with Muslim ancestors, is saying that the Columbia students are diluting the difference between students and non students and that worries them. He speculates that the cops will wait for a week before intervening because they want to test them to see how long they can sustain the occupation. He is using the encampments in the US to judge the timelines. These UofT students don’t have the names of everyone on the lawn. They are not 100% sure that there’s no infiltrators on the lawn. This student is going to call his contractor in the morning to set up portapotties. The door is currently just a banner with five people holding it up, entrance is on one side and exit is on the other.


The door is closed and I’m going home as I have things to do tomorrow.

Friday 3-May-2024 (Day 2)

0148 Telegram update: new gdoc containing new information for donations. Requires permission to access. This will be known as the donation portal.

0234 Telegram update: new video of the encampment taken from behind the tree looking at the crowd

0854 Telegram update: in order to donate meals you need to sign up on a Meal Sign-Up form. They don’t want people to donate soup. They are pausing all donations until 1200.

1301 Telegram update: Circle invites people to participate in Jummah prayer at 1400. TGIF!

1331 Telegram update: 1500-1600 there will be a letter writing session. 1700 there’s a Shabbat service. There will also be a film screening

1404 Telegram update: the campers want to eat less bread and pizza and more rice and lentils. Basically they don’t like gluten. They also want ingredients clearly labelled and veg and non veg food separated.


Some parts of the fencing is attached by two hexagonal bolts, sometimes rusted.

Some places are extra secure with a lot of zip ties.


Marshals say three things are needed: sleeping bags, blankets, and power banks. Marshals are only letting people in if they have connections. If one doesn’t have connections, they are allowed in temporarily with an escort with a vow to not take photos of anyone’s faces. The black tent on the grass is where the food is kept.


CBC is being denied access without a media liaison who is responsible for preventing the media from taking photos of anyone’s faces.


Students at uoft hosted “no arms in the arts festival”. They showed five short films on Palestine. All of them were nationalistic and secular. The second one was about women fighting in PFLP.