As students continue to protest at King’s College Circle calling on U of T to divest funding from companies that supply the Israeli military, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) issued a statement in solidarity with the ongoing encampment

On May 5, the encampment, referred to by the protesters’ as “Peoples Circle for Palestine,” entered its fourth day after an estimated 200 people stayed in King’s College Circle overnight. 

As the encampment continues, students honoured Red Dress Day and set up a makeshift barrier within the enclosed area. 

Red Dress Day

The student protesters’ main event of honoring Red Dress Day — the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) — began with the protesters laying out red dresses on the fences across the camp.


Red Dress Day was inspired by Winnipeg-based Métis artist Jamie Black’s 2010 art installation of red dresses to bring awareness to MMIWG.

According to the Assembly of First Nations, Indigenous women in Canada are four times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous women. They also make up 16 per cent of all female homicide victims. 

Kalliopé Anvar McCall, a fourth-year student and spokesperson from UofT Occupy for Palestine (O4P) — the group of students organizing the protest — spoke to The Varsity about some of the parallels between Palestine and Turtle Island. 

“They’re one [in] the same. And in order for us to sustain an encampment here, there has to be a strong solidarity between the Indigenous elders who have been welcomed into our encampment, of course, because after all, we’re on their land…and between the Palestinian organizers.” 

At 1:45 pm, a crowd of about 50 to 60 people walked up King’s College Road and around King’s College Circle chanting “no more stolen sisters.” They eventually entered the gates and collectively chanted “no peace on stolen land.” At 1:57 pm, protesters formed a large circle in the encampment, where those part of the MMIWG group gave speeches. 

Counter protest

Amidst the MMIWG speeches inside the fences, the Canadian Women Against Antisemitism — a group of Jewish women against antisemitism and that denounces Jewish hatred — organized a “Stand with Students” counter protest, after publishing on their website that “students are in danger.” Israel Now — a group that claims to restore the “pride and integrity within the consciousness of the Jewish people” — organized another counter protest outside King’s College Circle. 

About 10 counter protesters gathered outside the fences at 2:30 pm, with Campus Safety standing between them and the protesters. Toronto Police Service officers also stood by on the scene, but did not enter the encampment. 

Unions and organization 

On May 5, the UTSU issued a statement on Instagram expressing its solidarity with students on the ongoing encampment. 

The statement mentioned that the UTSU “stands firmly in support of the student encampment on our campus, our student’s right to engage in peaceful protest, and the demands set forth by the parties involved.” 

These demands include to disclose the universities financial holdings, divest from investments supporting the Israeli military, and terminate partnerships with Israeli academic institutions. 

The statement also said the UTSU wants to join “alongside other students unions” the call to ensure safety of the students in the encampment, and that members of their executive committee have visited the encampment, observing “the sense of community fostered by those involved.” 

“We are proud of our students and stand alongside them in peacefully advocating for their demands, and for the freedom of Palestine.” 



The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) branches of UTSG, UTM, and UTSC also sent an email calling on student leaders and clubs to sign an open-letter to President Meric Gertler and Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh, calling on the university administration to uphold freedom of expression policies. 

“Our university administration has taken a clear and bold stance against students’ rights to peacefully assemble and express themselves,” wrote MSA. “This is appalling to say the least.” 

They are asking student clubs to sign the letter by May 6 to be included in its first release. 

Makeshift barrier 

At around 10:14 pm, O4P protesters started to build a temporary barrier of tarps encircling the tents within the enclosed area of King’s College Circle. The barrier forms a secondary wall surrounding their camp, with gaps in between them.

O4P has not mentioned the purpose of setting up the barrier in time for publication.

With files from Eshnika Singh and Eleanor Yuneun Park