Jewish event disruped at UWO....
All hell will break loose at the University of Western Ontario if the students who disrupted an Israel On Campus (IOC) event don’t face repercussions, warned a frustrated IOC member.
Aubrey Chapnick, a third year student in the Business Management & Organizational Studies program at UWO, told the Jewish Tribune he was enjoying the non-political Israel Day displays last Wednesday when a large group of anti-Israel activists showed up en masse, without permission, and were allowed by campus police to block access to the event for about an hour. Many of the protesters had duct tape over their mouths and carried signs with anti-Israel messages.
If the rules aren’t enforced, Chapnick warned, “the Jewish community at Western will be in an uproar.... If these individuals and groups aren’t being held to the same standards that every other club is subject to, all hell is going to break out.”
It’s too early to say if the protesters will face any sanctions, according to Elgin Austen, director of campus police at UWO.
Campus police arrived on the scene quickly but did not intervene or make the protesters leave because “it’s better to observe what’s happening, see who’s actually there, and then deal with it,” Elgin Austen, director of campus police at UWO, told the Jewish Tribune. Although “it’s not acceptable for picketers to come in and do that,” direct police interference will only inflame the situation and “create a huge scene.”
Austen assured the Tribune that, “We don’t appreciate what happened and we will be dealing with this in a strategic fashion.”
Beginning this week, Austen said, campus police will meet with students on both sides to collect information, and then “discuss what the strategy should be to not let this happen again.” They will need to “assess the best courses of action...because we haven’t had this kind of situation occur before.” Any disciplinary action that might be taken “will be decided at a later point.”
Jeremy Chad, a third-year business and engineering student at UWO and IOC member, told the Tribune that the protest appeared to have been planned. Shortly before 1:30 p.m., members of the student newspaper arrived and were seen watching from the balcony, and others who looked like media showed up around the same time, said Chad. At about 1:30, a group of about 60 people, “came from the downstairs area and stood in between the Israel Day booths and the entrance to the building.” The protesters created a physical barrier that prevented anyone from seeing or visiting the Israel Day festivities.
According to Chad, signs held by protesters were “outrageous, complete propaganda: it was all untrue.” The protest did nothing to further respectful dialogue. “With their mouths taped shut and us not being able to discuss this, there was nothing that could be done. It certainly put pro-Israelis and Jews in a very difficult position.... It made many people feel uncomfortable.”