Commentary | Letters

Don’t judge a picketer by their cover

Many students resent us strikers because we block access to campus and because of the difficulties we have caused them in registering, securing financing, and so on. I might have felt the same way. However, rather than ignoring and judging us, please think about the following:
While it might look like we are a bunch of two-year olds throwing a collective tantrum, we are simply following a convention in labour relations that dictates that walking around outside your place of work making noise and shouting corny slogans means that you want better working conditions. More significantly, in order to get any pay at all, we need to picket. In spite of appearances, I’m not having fun on the picket lines. The dancing and noise-making are poor substitutes for the meaningful and supportive interactions with co-workers and students that most support staff are inclined towards. Walking in circles is unbelievably boring and hard on the joints. There are a limited number of conversations one can have with co-workers and strike-mates. The noise is ear-drum busting, the pace glacial, and there are no guarantees that this will even be effective.
And things are complicated: though I wear an “on strike” t-shirt and make noise sometimes, it’s worth noting that I, among many others, voted against the strike. But striking is all or nothing. Once begun, the continuation is scripted. Our future together at McGill rests in the hands of a few negotiators and the administration. Frankly, I don’t know who to trust less.
So, next time you go to class, think about walking an extra few feet to avoid disrespecting this strike process. Or better yet, come talk to us or walk a few rounds. Maybe we’ll all get back to doing what we are here to do that much faster.

Frances Spidle
Secretary, Downtown Campus
Alumni, Faculty of Music

Yeah, I’m down. Re: “Are you down to riot, bro?” | Hyde Park | September 19

Dear McGill Daily,
I enjoyed reading Alvin Chauhan’s recent Hyde Park explaining “the dark pleasure of rioting” as related to the mayhem in downtown Vancouver this past June. Chauhan is correct in arguing – as any viewer of the relevant YouTube videos can corroborate – that what happened after the Stanley Cup loss had nothing to do with hockey, and everything to do with “the unbelievably powerful adrenaline rush, a consuming feeling of megalomania” that accompanies the “opportunit[y] to take a crude object and a smash it through the window of a bustling downtown shop.” As someone who has enjoyed observing at least at one of Montreal’s own famous hockey riots (May 2010), and who has found myself rooting for the hooligans smashing the SAQ’s windows rather than for the wickedly effective police, I can appreciate this adrenaline rush. Chauhan’s observations regarding “the carnivalesque atmosphere of a riot” are spot-on.
The kids in Vancouver burning cop cars were not doing so in the name of anything other than sheer destruction. I join Chauhan in actually respecting this a little bit. Everyone feels the need to break shit once in a while.
What’s annoying, though, is when the impulse to destruction is clearly the underlying motive, but the rioter in question marches under a scrawled-out banner and expects us to believe that he or she breaks shit for the designated reason. Despite the menacing mask or the badass bandanna, it’s easy to see right through them.
Which is why I think it a very good idea for The Daily to assign Chauhan to cover next spring’s annual “Anti-Police Brutality March.” The intention of the “March” – not the incidental outcome, as the organizers cheekily insist – is always to create the same seemingly spontaneous ejaculation of the riotous spirit that Chauhan observed in Vancouver. Send him to check it out, and if he’s lucky, get arrested. I’d love to know what he thinks.

The world is watching
Re: “Big brother is watching” | Editorial | September 12

The GAMMA task force does not lack, as Monday’s editorial stated, a “clear motive.” The SPVM’s project is motivated by the increasing, protest-related violence over recent years, and by the well-founded conclusion that this violence is tolerated and even espoused by some anarchist organizations. The QCHRF protects the rights of all groups to assembly and expression – but we must be clear about what kind of assembly and expression this means.
We would not argue that such protections extend to a group that encourages violence against blacks, Muslims, or queers, for example. What has developed is a situation where anarchist groups are similarly classified – and for no obscure reason. Anarchist groups, which decry state violence, have in general failed to stand against violence, especially violence targeting the police, from within their own ranks.
Those who attack police officers, throw petrol bombs, or break windows will almost certainly be arrested. The organizations to which they are party will be investigated to stop such events happening again. Here, the state makes no distinction between racists, “nice” anarchists, or animal-rights advocates. By recourse to violence, whoever perpetrates it surrenders their “right” to freedom from police scrutiny.
Not all anarchists are violent, but too many are – it is up to anarchist organizers to change this. Some will say, “Cops are never innocent.” Indeed some police commit crimes. These are for journalists to expose and for the law to punish. But when a woman is raped, or a homeless person assaulted (“Witnessing assault at the metro station,” 12/9/11) whom else do we call? Perhaps the distant future will see a new alternative to the state’s role in keeping the peace, as some anarchists suggest. But in our massive contemporary society, the only way that anarchists will achieve such a paradigm is through peaceful means of their own. If they continue to condone violence, the suppression of anarchist groups is inevitable.

Mike Prebil
U3 History

Definitely not, but thanks.
Re: “Are you down to riot, bro?” | Hyde Park | September 19

Dear McGill Daily,
As a Vancouverite, I am deeply shamed by both the riots and the idea that someone would write about them in so celebratory a tone, reveling in the denigration of any city, let alone my hometown. Mr. Chauhan’s shallow profiling of the rioters and his tenuous assertions, that “the riots should demonstrate that violence and destructive behaviour are natural human qualities,” are unhelpful and baseless. If human beings are naturally violent and destructive, how does one comprehend the outpouring of support and volunteerism to help clean up the downtown core the very next day?
Further, the assumption that no one will be prosecuted, that rioters can “temporarily indulge in barbarism” without legal consequences, is naive and shortsighted. The legal system in BC is designed so as to make it more difficult for police and prosecutors to arraign suspects due to the amount of corroborating evidence required to lay charges. The protections in place are to ensure a freer society, one in which protest is recognized as a legitimate form of dissent. The senseless violence of June 15 jeopardizes the legitimacy of our justice system.
Finally, Chauhan’s anecdotal evidence of human kindness is irrelevant. The fibre of our community was on display on Thursday, June 16, not the ragged edges you self-identify with of the night before.
I find Mr. Chauhan cowardly for publishing this story here, in Montreal, where it will have little permanence, and I suggest he try to have it published in the Vancouver Sun or Province for the judgment he has avoided so far.

Matthew Milne
U2 Political Science and English Literature


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