Two days of anti-Israel protests at the end of March shut down buildings and classes at McGill University

An Instagram post from Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at McGill University, March 28, 2024.

Montreal police made at least one arrest as anti-Israel demonstrators mobilized at McGill University on March 28 and 29, impacting classes and occupying common areas. Crowds blocked access to three buildings targeting professors and programs perceived to be connected to Israel.

The action on March 28 targeted large classes in the faculties of engineering, education and management. On March 29, a die-in occupied McGill’s main quad.

Leaders spoke about the need to decolonize Israel. “May we see indigenous land sovereignty and land-back worldwide,” said one speaker in a video circulating online. Protesters accused McGill of funding Zionists and said the university’s action made students complicit in genocide.  

Numerous anti-Israel student groups including Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), Engineering Students for Palestine, McGill Grad Students for Palestine, Divest McGill and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) organized the actions. The university has stripped SPHR’s right to use McGill in its name.

In videos posted online, demonstrators with their identities concealed with keffiyehs can be seen banging on doors within the university and chanting “we charge you with genocide,” and “free, free Palestine.” Other photos show masked individuals blocking access to classes. 

Anti-Israel protesters bang on the doors at McGill University, March 29, 2024 (Screenshot from Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs video)

“McGill Campus Public Safety is working with the Montreal police services, who were called to campus on March 28 and 29, 2024 to minimize the impact of disruptions on students and on academic activities,” a university spokesperson told The CJN. 

“McGill’s security staff and police officers collaborated to defuse tensions. The University is actively reviewing evidence and will begin disciplinary proceedings against any McGill students identified as having contravened the Code of Student Conduct, as is our normal process.

“Police made at least one arrest related to campus disruptions and the University decided to press charges. While nearly all academic activities continued over these two days, the University recognizes that the behavior of some protesters intimidated and unnerved many members of our community.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) wrote in a social media post: “Demonstrating is one thing, intimidation is quite another. Yet another day on a university campus when students and staff were intimidated by hate-fuelled and hate-spreading groups that blocked classroom entrances and disrupted students’ classes.” 

Israeli Consul General Paul Hirschson also criticized the university:

“This is exactly why I hear so many stories from Jewish students feeling intimidated on campus. I think this is a good video to show McGill University at the Parliamentary committee study on antisemitism we will soon have,” said Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather.

The Justice Committee, which Housefather sits on, is studying antisemitism and will hear from students about the climate on campuses.

The demonstration comes a month after anti-Israel groups, including SPHR, blockaded McGill University’s Bronfman building. The incident received significant condemnation from political leaders from all levels of government.

Anti-Israel demonstrations have escalated in Montreal. A demonstration outside Federation’s CJA building in early March, prevented people from entering a lecture sponsored by Concordia University students that featured three IDF soldiers, and trapped others inside the building.

The Montreal community has since received court-issued injunctions against several pro-Palestinian groups from protesting with 50 metres of a number of schools, synagogues and community institutions.