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MacEwan students play active role in U of A Palestine encampment

by | May 15, 2024 | News, Politics, SAMU | 1 comment

Protestors make demands of both universities

Disclosure: Nour Salhi has contributed to the Griff previously.

While protests broke out at the University of Alberta late last week, two members who have been acting as public voices for the protests don’t actually go to the U of A — they’re MacEwan students. 

Since Thursday, Nour Salhi has produced media releases and acted as media liaison for the People’s University for Palestine (known as University4Palestine.yeg on Instagram). She and fellow MacEwan student Abraar Alsilwadi have also spoken in multiple interviews and given several speeches as spokespersons for the group.

The pro-Palestine protest sought to create an encampment at the U of A’s main quad on May 9th but was shut down by police last Saturday.

While Salhi used to attend the U of A, the two are both in studies at MacEwan and were misidentified in earlier interviews with CBC as U of A students.

Salhi says the encampment’s goal was to pressure both academic institutions to disclose and divest any economic ties to Israel. Similar protests have broken out at universities in Canada and the U.S.

Protesters return to the U of A campus on Saturday. Photo by David Slater.

Strength in numbers

Salhi said she joined with U of A students because both schools act similarly, and MacEwan would likely follow if U of A gave in to the protest’s demands.

“It is not fair to just demand one institution remove itself from being complicit in genocide and the other one gets to be left alone,” Salhi said.

“Our power is strength in numbers and moving as a joint collective,” she said, “Especially because both universities have a history of silence.”

After police used force to sweep the encampments, striking protestors with batons and deploying a chemical irritant, the People’s University of Palestine specifically called on MacEwan to defend its students. 

The U of A and the Police have been criticized for using unnecessary force and accused of violating the protestor’s charter rights.

Silence and betrayal

These aren’t the first protests to target MacEwan. Protestors assembled at the MacEwan campus in October and November to call for the institutions to take a stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict, calling it a genocide.

“There has been a severe feeling of betrayal from both institutions, specifically in their silence,” Salhi said. “At this point, in an ongoing genocide, silence in itself is complicity. You cannot remain neutral or refuse to make a statement.”

The two institutions have been trying to take an impartial position on Gaza but were vocal about Ukraine. They quickly condemned Russia and provided support for Ukrainian students.

“The same supports are not afforded to Palestinian students who are expected to continue business as usual despite the fact that they are watching the genocide of their people on screens.”

MacEwan is home to Palestinian students and students with familial ties to Gaza. Many, like Layal, who spoke to the Griff earlier this year, are running a GoFundMe campaign to help their families escape.

The police raid, and students return

The early morning raid by Edmonton police, at the request of the U of A, ended with three arrests and multiple injuries. U of A president Bill Flanagan defended the eviction and claimed no injuries were reported. 

The student group’s Instagram displayed photos of members’ injuries and videos showing police bludgeoning students and faculty, which quickly became viral on social media, receiving more than 1 million views. Encampment organizers say that one member was hospitalized.

“It was just an extremely brutal escalation and response from the people that are meant to protect us,” Salhi said.

As news of police violence spread, by noon, a large crowd of a few thousand gathered at the Alberta Legislature. Alsilwadi, alongside Salhi, recounted the police raid for the crowd before leading them back to the U of A.

Protesters near the legislature on May 11, 2024. Photo by David Slater.

After the march, which EPS attempted to block, The People’s University for Palestine posted a press release refuting Flanagan’s claims and calling for the UASU and SAMU to support the student’s right to protest and condemn the U of A and EPS violence.

MacEwan President Annette Trimbee said in an emailed statement to the Griff that the university is committed to protecting freedom of expression.

“All members of the university community have the right to learn, live and work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment,” Trimbee says, adding the university will not tolerate threats or violence. 

“The university is closely monitoring the protests. The physical safety of students, staff and faculty remains our utmost priority.”

SAMU issues statement

The Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU) released a statement on Tuesday, saying it was “deeply troubled” by the use of violence against peaceful protestors and condemned the use of extensive force seen at the U of A and the University of Calgary.

“SAMU stands with our students as they exercise their charter-protected rights, and we call on the administration of the University of Calgary, University of Alberta and MacEwan University to uphold and protect these rights.”

SAMU now joins others in the academic community calling for an investigation into the encampment sweeps. 

MacEwan students who have been impacted can access legal and mental health support through SAMU.

If you have any information for this story or information for another story, please contact us in confidence via email at

Cover photo features Alsilwadi (left) and Salhi (right) by David Slater.

David Slater

The Griff

1 Comment

  1. Marc

    Great article. – Dear President and administration leadership at MacEwan… Disclose and divest. We can’t support Israel’s genocide.


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