We have conflicting reports, of course, about what happened at McGill Thursday evening (see the school paper for some conflicting accounts). The occupiers claim that they were non-violent although bursting through doors suggests otherwise. The university claims that they had no control over what happened outside but were entirely responsible and peaceful inside the administration building. I have colleagues seeking to foster an organization dedicated to free speech and respect. What to make of this?
Damned if I know. Clearly, the police handled the situation badly. Sending in the bike cops (see the video) was absolutely the wrong thing to do, as people tend not to take them very seriously. This escalated things, and the crowd, apparently egged on by the "occupiers" in the building got louder and more confrontational. We don't really know what happened inside the building, although it looks like the two sides eventually agreed to a peaceful resolution--not a bad or entirely predictable outcome.
I do wonder about who these folks were. Comments on my previous blog entries suggest that there were provocateurs/anarchists from outside McGill seeking escalation. The use of French is a clue but not not 100% as the idea might have been for McGill students to play to the Montreal audience, as opposed to the McGill audience. Still, chants in French on campus are suggestive. Yes, McGill has French-speaking students, but if you want to play to a McGill audience, you probably use English. Again, I don't want to go too far on this, as I was not there. But the reports, taking into account the selection bias of folks who read and post on my blog, here are of folks who got what they wanted.
Which is too bad. McGill is supposed to be a place for free speech and contemplation, not coercion. One can oppose or be angered by Thursday's events without supporting the tuition-strike and without supporting the staff strike that has been going on since September.
As one commenter noted, having the Dean of the Law school lead the investigation might be a tad problematic since he is part of the administration. However, if the Dean includes some reps from student and professor organizations, then perhaps the results will have some legitimacy.
The strange thing is now some folks are calling for cancelling classes on Monday to protest this event and talk about it. I don't mind a teach in for a time, but given that this all spun out of an effort to not attend classes for a day, I cannot think that cancelling classes makes much sense. I will be holding mine. To be sure, more talking is better than the alternatives
So, this blog post must sound kind of confused, right? Well, consider me confused.
I don't think that the use of French is particularly important - chanting So So So, Solidarité has been done for a lot of other McGill protests/sit ins. But who knows, maybe in this case.
A good amount of the people outside were from outside McGill.
The people inside, I know some of them personally, were from inside McGill. And primarily anglophone Montréalers by origin. But they type of anglophone who think that the ongoing use of English in Québec is a form of ongoing colonial oppression etc...
(Um, they were also criminal trespassers.)
I think it also needs to be remembered why the riot police had been pulled out of reserve and deployed downtown in the first place: the police had already been pelted with objects and fired upon with boat flares on McGill College Avenue, outside Charest's office.
Following that, the police get a report of a disturbance on the McGill campus, and send... mere bike cops. Only when those bike cops have had objects thrown at them and been forced retreat do riot police enter campus.
I doubt at that point the riot police were in a very conversational frame of mind. Regrettable, but hardly surprising.
The irony is that the average Quebec voter is likely to see this as a case of spoiled lawless student radicals, and be MORE sympathetic to increased tuition fees. Talk about an own-goal...
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