Yesterday, thousands of Quebec CEGEP and university students took to the streets to protest a proposed elevation in tuition and fees. The route brought people together near Berri-UQAM (a metro stop) and then back to the McGill campus. This is where things got ugly. Not only did someone call in riot police on the protesters, the riot police indiscriminately attacked people who were already on campus before the protesters arrived including my colleague Greg Mikkelson who happened to be outside the James Administration Building. Here’s his account from last night:
Around 5pm today I got batoned, knocked down, and then pepper-sprayed
by the Montreal police in front of the James Administration Building.
Although I support the cause of the student rally against tuition hikes,
I had not participated in it. Instead, I was on my way out of campus to
get my kids from day-care. I stopped to witness the events in front of
the James, and apparently was too close for a group of three officers,
two of whom attacked me physically.
In one of her partisan emails to McGill faculty, aimed at turning us again MUNACA, Principal Munroe-Blum wrote that “we do not deface buildings and engage in physical threats,” implying that MUNACA did. Of course this was false, since an injunction is effectively backed by a threat of police violence. But yesterday’s violence was of a much more direct order. City police don’t just how up on university campuses. Schools have their own security forces, and often they are run as their own little mini-states. I can’t imagine that the city police would enter campus without permission from campus security, and that campus security would make such a decision without consulting someone in administration. But perhaps — despite seeing a well-organized and throughly contingency-planned operation while I was chair — this is not the case in this instance. Therefore:
I would like to know who invited riot police onto our university campus in response to a student protest.
I would like to know why the administration let this happen.
I would like for the Principal to condemn the use of excessive and indiscriminate force by Montreal riot police, and if the administration did invite them onto campus, to apologize to the McGill community.
Yes, I marched with the students on the McGill-to-downtown part of the route but my feet were soaked, my resolution weak, and I cut my losses and went home after standing around at Berri-UQAM for awhile. While I was there, I saw zero examples of bad behavior or violence. Just an orderly and loud demonstration.