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About seventy students spent Tuesday night in and around James Administration building. The students decided to leave the lobby around 11:30 a.m. after having spent 24 hours “partying” in solidarity with a second occupation occurring on the sixth floor of the building.
At around 8:45 p.m., Security Services’ Operations Administrator (Special Events) Kevin Byers announced to occupants of the lobby that they would no longer be permitted to enter and exit freely. As of 9 p.m., wireless Internet was disabled in the building.
“The building is closed, so if you guys want to sit here and keep doing what you’re doing, it’s been peaceful, so let’s keep it that way. If you guys do leave, please take your belongings, because we won’t let you back in,” Byers told the students and faculty in the lobby.
“We are not going to come and start forcing you to leave, but bodily functions will probably at some point force you to go to the washroom. If you do go to the washroom … you don’t come back,” he said.
Students received word later in the night that employees who work in James Administration were notified that they should work from home on Wednesday.
Washroom facilities were not available to those in the lobby, and security agents were directed to stop students from finding alternative ways to go to the washroom. At least six agents controlled the main door, preventing people from entering. Multiple security agents controlled a door that leads to a stairway.
Students “partying” on the sixth floor negotiated with Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Jim Nicell on Tuesday evening regarding their two demands: the McGill administration’s recognition of CKUT and QPIRG’s fall referenda questions and the resignation of Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson.
In the midst of negotiations, “partyers” on the sixth floor requested a student from the lobby partake in negotiations. Student Amber Gross, escorted by Nicell, joined negotiations on the sixth floor. She was prevented from bringing food to those on the sixth floor.
Gross returned to the lobby about half an hour later. She described negotiations: “We basically kept saying that we need to start by negotiating on the two demands. He said that both were impossible.”
“We pretty much decided that if he wasn’t able to start negotiations on the demands there was no point in continuing cause he was basically asking us to leave nicely, which is not why we were there,” said Gross.
QPIRG Board member Patrick DeDauw said that Jim Nicell is not involved in their discussions with McGill administration concerning the fall referendum question.
Nearly thirty students remained in the lobby throughout the night, despite being denied access to a washroom. A tent was pitched and around seven demonstrators spent the night outside in support of occupiers indoors.
As of Wednesday afternoon, no progress has been made in negotiations between administration and “the sixth floor party contingent,” according to a communiqué from the group. A statement from the lobby occupiers is forthcoming.
During Tuesday evening, student Ryan Thom performed three poems in the lobby as part of a teach-in regarding queer and people of colour issues. He spoke to his feelings of the student “movement” on campus, stating that, while he is a former member of Mob Squad, he stopped attending meetings in frustration.
“There are a lot of folks who are behind the cause I think, many of the many causes that drive people to do things on McGill campus that they’ve done this year but don’t feel that they can access those actions, access the communities that do direct action, [or] don’t feel they are being properly represented,” said Thom after his performance. A discussion was facilitated following Thom’s performance.
A public Facebook event called “The James 6th Floor occupiers do NOT represent me” was created after the occupation began. “Since last November, a very small – yet very vocal and radical – minority has been monopolizing the political discourse of our campus at the expense of all of us,” the event page states.
“We reject their extremist rhetoric. We reject their radical tactics. We reject their divisive speech. We are the Silent Majority. Or rather, we were the Silent Majority,” it continues. At press time, the event had 1,043 people attending.