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We, too, are McGill

A letter from staff members of the Offices of the Principal and Provost

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We are seven staff members who were working in the fifth-floor offices of the James Administration Building on Thursday, November 10 when 14 protesters broke in and forcibly occupied our work spaces.

We would like to add our voices and experiences as staff members to the public record in order to provide a fuller picture of what happened on that day.

We would also like to make it known that we take issue with the account presented in the letter authored by the 14 occupiers of our offices, published in The McGill Daily on November 13.

This was not a peaceful occupation – this was trespassing, intimidation, and the restriction of our freedom.

In the student media and on the banner hung by protesters from a window in our office, this event has been referred to as “Occupons McGill.” The fact that the aggressive occupation of our work spaces is being associated with a peaceful international movement does not sit well with us.

We are not oil barons nor Wall Street bankers. We do our jobs because we believe in McGill and because we value higher education. We work to support the McGill community – students, faculty, and administration – and we are proud to do so.

The occupiers of our offices did not act like members of the McGill community as we know it.

They were not peaceful. They seized and blocked the entry and exit of the doors leading to our common reception area and then overpowered a staff member to break through a locked door leading into the Principal’s and Provost’s private offices.

They stormed into our offices and attempted to use furniture to blockade themselves inside spaces containing confidential documents.

They refused to identify themselves and several were hooded and had masked their faces with bandanas.

They refused to discuss their concerns or explain the purpose of their occupation when asked.

They forced their way past another staff member and into the Principal’s private office. When Security arrived and asked them to leave that office, some of them refused.

They shouted insults and profanity at Security staff, including calling them “[expletive] pigs.”

We were threatened and intimidated on the night of November 10 in the very spaces we thought were safe. When Security attempted to escort us out of the building, we were prevented from leaving by a large group of protesters who had surrounded our building and were blocking the exits.

As we watched the clash of protesters and police from the windows of our offices, we understood how many of the non-violent protesters and bystanders outside must have felt. The rage and unreason of the few had hijacked a day of well-planned protests. The safety of those inside and outside the James Building was endangered by the actions of the few.

One might even call them the 1 per cent.

The spaces that were forcibly occupied on November 10 are the spaces in which we do our work every day. Even though the protesters may not have stopped to consider us, we, too, are McGill.

The 14 individuals who occupied our offices have published accounts of their so-called heroism. They did not, however, sign their names to their accounts published in The Daily and Le Délit.

We, too, are McGill, and by signing our names to this letter, we hope to remind them of what that means.