Student faces assault charges after altercation at Palestinian rights event


A 17-year old student is facing one charge of assault after Rachel Thevenard, member of UW’s Students for Palestinian Rights group (SFPR), reported an altercation that took place Oct. 30 during an SFPR event in the lower atrium of SLC.

Thevenard contacted UW Police Services (UWPS) after the altercation. Dan Anderson, director of UWPS, said the student is a young offender, which means the penalties are different than what they would be for an adult.

The student, who cannot be publicly identified by UWPS, is facing a wide range of consequences.

If the court finds him guilty, the student could face anything from probation period to a financial penalty. However, Anderson confirmed the student is not facing the possibility of incarceration.

According to Thevenard, the student is no longer allowed to be in direct contact with her.

The altercation was sparked when the student facing assault charges tied an Israeli flag on the railing in the SLC, overlooking the lower atrium, beside the Palestinian flag the SFPR had placed there for their event.

In a video shared with Imprint, Thevenard confronts the student and asks that the flag be removed since the group has reserved the space for the event. When the student refuses to take down the flag, an argument ensues, which leads the student facing assault charges to cut the Palestinian flag.

Thevenard then heads towards the Feds offices to take the flag to Dave McDougall, Feds director of campus life, when the student facing charges grabs her and pulls her as she attempts to make her way up the stairs.

McDougall never responded to Imprint’s interview requests.

“The man continually pulled my left arm for several minutes, resulting in what the doctor has diagnosed as a STI- Soft Tissue injury, this means I have pain in my left shoulder and extended arm. Mentally, I have noticed my mood [is] low, and I’ve been experiencing shock over the days since,” Thevenard said to Imprint in a written statement.

Anderson said that this is a case of assault because the victim was being held without consent.

“That would be considered assault,” Anderson said. “Assault is the intentional application of force without consent. If you push somebody, or grab hold of somebody, and it was without their consent, it is an assault.”

“As long as the group doing the event is okay with a flag or any other material being put up on display in their event space that’s fine, but, if they’re not okay, it’s not allowed,” said Feds VP Internal Maaz Yasin.

Thevenard said all the student had to do was ask beforehand.

“If he had asked to put up the Israeli flag, the group [SFPR] would have said yes. And if he got permission from Feds, it wouldn’t have been an issue,” she said.

Yasin added that, when a student group or club reserves space to host an event and the issue they’re advocating has two sides that is polarizing in nature, Feds makes sure to let both groups know beforehand.

“What we do is let the groups from the other side of the issue know beforehand. For example, the Women’s Centre and the pro-life club, we would let the other side know if one side is doing an event so one side is not caught by surprise,” Yasin said. “We let them know the nature of the event and what type of materials are being put up just so that they have an idea and not caught by surprise.”

Yasin said Feds makes sure student clubs and groups understand that “they have to remember to respect their freedom of speech and freedom of expression to share whatever views, opinions, or ideas they have to share.”

Anderson touched upon that same point of respecting freedom of speech and opposing views.

“Universities are a place where we encourage people to have different views and differences of opinions and arguments. It has to be respectful, and it has to, first of all, not involve physical acts of stopping another person from getting their message across,” Anderson said.

If the student decides to plead guilty the issue could be resolved in a few months, but if this goes to court, a resolution may not be reached until a year from now.

This article has been edited to remove the line: “[Thevenard] called the act a “crime against humanity.”” As it was used in the wrong context.
The article was also edited to reflect that the event held by SFPR was not a rally.