A few days late, but another speech from the November 14th rally

This one from my friend Michelle Hartman


My name is Michelle Hartman, I teach in the Institute of Islamic Studies and I am a member of MFLAG.

The last time I spoke out on an amplified system to you all, at another student organized teach-in, I linked the treatment of the striking workers from MUNACA to systemic problems of sexism and racism at McGill University. And I read a poem. And I am going to read that poem again today when I finish my remarks.

Today we are standing here to deplore and condemn another terrible series of events on our campus, intrinsically linked to these same issues. The intervention of McGill security guards to harass and physically harm student demonstrators and those who occupied the James Building, the escalation of this by the police and the entry of riot police onto our campus to further beat, pepper-spray, and harm students, profs, passersby and others must be roundly condemned by us all and we must–as others have said–stand together to resist this, condemn it and to push back.

This is not a coincidence and this is not isolated. This is not about a few student radicals or some cops who got out of control when faced with a certain “difficult” situation.

This is a logical outcome of what has been building on our campus and a reflection of other struggles across our city, province and the world.

We feel so surprised because it is easy here at McGill to isolate ourselves from the reality of police and state violence that exists in Montreal, particularly at protests, demonstrations and in communities of colour.

But we have seen repression from the beginning of this semester on our campus by the workers from MUNACA who are on strike for fair and just wages and benefits and a proper pay scale. They have been faced with a series of injunctions limiting their ability to picket and express their demands. They have been faced with stalled negotations. They have been mischaracterized and demonized as though they were violent thugs. As has been pointed out this is a workforce that is 80% women, many of whom are heads of households, many of whom are people of colour, they are the most diverse organized body of people on campus. They have been treated with scorn and contempt in a university where research and reports exposing institutional racism have been ignored. They have been followed, video taped and intimidated by the increased security on campus.

This same security has intimidated, threatened and now physically harmed student demonstrators and protesters. The increased security on campus is not protecting students–they shut one of my students foot in a door when she was trying to enter a senate meeting that at least 50 students and about a dozen profs were also prevented from entering by locked doors.
Specific students and profs have been profiled, targeted, brought up on bogus charges for disciplinary hearings–we have been refused entry not only into senate but also to other university buildings.

So it is not a mistake that when students linked their protest against the unfair treatment of workers on campus to the struggles of other students across the province and organized to participate in the massive demonstration last week against tuition rises that we saw the university and city clamp down on them. McGill students came together and worked together with students from Concordia, Université de Montréal and UQAM as well as schools and universities across the province in a massive demonstration.

You all are fighting back together and this is the moment to fight back. Students are linking their struggles to those of other students. We are working to link McGill to the city and beyond and this is exactly what we should be doing. We came together to support MUNACA, we have come together in the past to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS).

I am so happy to speak today at such a big gathering of students and others. It is you all who have researched what is going on, made decisions, come together and organized. You have reached out to profs, many of whom have been working with you and more and more are joining. This is the time to come together and work together.

To say no to tuition rises so that education can be accessible to everyone, to support our striking colleagues for fair working conditions, to demand the rights of all of us to freedom of speech and assembly.

Today and right now we must also stand up and say NO to increased security; NO to police on our campuses. We must demand these security forces leave our campus.

Last Thursday night, we saw the response to the threat we posed–and our actions are a threat–to the corporate interests of the university.

This is not just a struggle in the university; this is much larger. We must link our actions to larger struggles.

I want to finish today by saying that conflict is not always bad. Emotion is not bad. Anger is not bad.

I have heard it reported that the principal, Heather Munroe Blum said that it is “too soon” to discuss these events because we are all too emotional right now.

I reject this–our emotions and our anger drive our willingness to engage in this as a conflict can be used for us to come together and get the work that needs to get done, done.

And now I will read the poem:
(And encourage everyone to google June Jordan, particularly her famous poem “Poem about Police Violence”.)

I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies

Dedicated to the Poet Agostinho Neto,
President of The People’s Republic of Angola: 1976

I will no longer lightly walk behind
a one of you who fear me:
Be afraid.
I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits
and facial tics
I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore
and this is dedicated in particular
to those who hear my footsteps
or the insubstantial rattling of my grocery
then turn around
see me
and hurry on
away from this impressive terror I must be:
I plan to blossom bloody on an afternoon
surrounded by my comrades singing
terrible revenge in merciless
I have watched a blind man studying his face.
I have set the table in the evening and sat down
to eat the news.
I have gone to sleep.
There is no one to forgive me.
The dead do not give a damn.
I live like a lover
who drops her dime into the phone
just as the subway shakes into the station
wasting her message
canceling the question of her call:

fulminating or forgetful but late
and always after the fact that could save or
condemn me

I must become the action of my fate.

How many of my brothers and my sisters
will they kill
before I teach myself
Shall we pick a number?
South Africa for instance:
do we agree that more than ten thousand
in less than a year but that less than
five thousand slaughtered in more than six
months will

I must become a menace to my enemies.

And if I
if I ever let you slide
who should be extirpated from my universe
who should be cauterized from earth
(lawandorder jerkoffs of the first the
terrorist degree)
then let my body fail my soul
in its bedeviled lecheries

And if I
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me

I must become
I must become a menace to my enemies.

One reply on “A few days late, but another speech from the November 14th rally”

Comments are closed.