Starting at about 7:45 a.m. this morning, four entrances onto McGill’s downtown campus were blocked for over an hour as the first day of final exams began for McGill students.
The areas blocked included the driveway near the Trottier Engineering building, Milton Gates, Roddick Gates, and the driveway on McTavish between the Redpath and Islamic Studies building. With the exception of the driveway leading to McTavish, all blockades permitted pedestrians to enter and exit.
Vehicles that attempted to drive onto campus at any of the four junctures were re-directed. McGill Security Services agents were on the scene, and police assembled nearby.
According to Director of Media Relations Doug Sweet, some exams scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. were delayed.
“We needed to make sure that everyone had adequate time to get where they needed to go if they had to take an alternative route because they were being blocked at McTavish or were being blocked at Roddick for a time,” he explained. “I hope it doesn’t happen every day.”
Sweet said some exams held on the downtown campus were delayed up to 30 minutes. “But everybody had adequate time to finish – there was no crunch at the end,” he added.
Demonstrators blockading the McTavish and Roddick Gates locked the driveway gates. At the Milton Gates, three benches were moved to form a barricade in front of the demonstrators. Security Services stopped demonstrators from moving one of the three benches, and returned it to its original location.
By 9 a.m. the blockades had disbanded and demonstrators gathered in front of the James Administration building. After about 10 minutes, demonstrators marched off campus to Sherbrooke and down St. Laurent, with the march dispersing outside of the Palais de justice building by 10 a.m.
Student demonstrators gathered initially in front of Place du Canada this morning at 7 a.m. before marching to McGill campus. Pamphlets handed out at the blockades explained the action’s aims.
“It is not against the students of McGill that we are taking action, but against the institution. Block the deliveries to block the profits!” the statements read.
“The story of McGill is one of elitism, exclusion, and pillaging,” it continued. The statement referenced shock techniques described by author Naomi Klein, McGill’s research in thermobaric weapons, the University’s mining department, and asbestos.
The University’s demonstration blog was updated at 8:24 a.m. stating that three gates on campus had been blocked.
“If someone attempts to block your access to the campus, please do not get into a confrontation, but seek an alternate route into the campus,” the blog post read. An MRO with the same message was sent out by Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Jim Nicell at 8:49 a.m.
The blog post confirmed that police were “in the vicinity.” Three police vehicles and two officers with motorcycles were on McTavish. Police stationed on McGill College and University are off-campus.
Once off-campus, 60 demonstrators marching towards the Palais de justice were accompanied by nine police vehicles, an ambulance, and at least four officers with motorcycles.
Outside the Palais de justice, demonstrators took turns reading a statement to other demonstrators concerning subjects such as police brutality and the Montreal media. About 35 demonstrators blocked traffic on Notre-Dame Est, the street in front of the Palais, for about 10 minutes before being pushed off the street by officers with batons.
18 officers formed a line along the street while traffic reopened along the street. The demonstration dwindled with groups of demonstrators leaving. It dispersed completely by around 10 a.m. when police left the scene and about 15 remaining demonstrators prepared to depart.