A crowd of over fifty people gathered around James Administration starting around 11 a.m. this morning, with nine police officers – including one on a motorcycle and one police vehicle – observing the demonstration. The crowd grew to about 100 people before beginning to march through McGill campus.
The demonstration is part of an ongoing series of actions throughout Montreal called for by the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE), which is one of three student bodies organizing the general unlimited strike against the $1,625 tuition hike scheduled to be implemented over the next five years. The strike is currently in its seventh week. 194,012 students are currently on strike.
Today’s demonstration, which demonstrators say started at Concordia, was organized by a small group, L’Order du Carré Rouge or the Order of the Red Square, which was created to organize similar demonstrations.
One of the Order’s founders, a student from Cégep de Saint-Laurent, said in French that the action was to show solidarity with students at Concordia and McGill. He said the intention was to enter McGill’s administration building, however, when doors were barred, demonstrators “improvised.”
According to another founder of the Order, a student from Cégep du Vieux Montréal, McGill was chosen as a site for the action because it symbolizes “a repressive movement against the student movement.
“To be inside McGill it is also a way to say to McGill [students] that we are with them,” he continued in French. “Presently, they do not have the means to direct actions within the movement themselves therefore they need our support and today we demonstrated that we’re here if they need it.”
He said that McGill students had asked demonstrators outside of the James building to pass by classes and “to make noise so as to let them know we’re here.”
A police officer outside the James building said police had followed the demonstration onto campus. Officers did not follow demonstrators through campus.
Demonstrators marched through the Arts, Leacock and Shatner buildings before marching to McLennan and Redpath libraries then the Desautels Faculty of Management building. McGill’s Security Services agents moved with the demonstration.
As students entered the Arts building, McGill Security’s Operations Administrator (Special Events) Kevin Byers told Operations Administrator Hugo Bourcier, “We’ll keep an eye; video, names.”
Throughout the Arts and Leacock buildings, demonstrators chanted “McGill on strike.” Associate Dean of Arts André Costopoulos appeared during this stage of the march for a period of time.
He said he was on his way to the Art History department, which voted to renew its strike mandate last night, where he later spoke with picketers.
“I just wanted to make sure that everybody’s safe, and the situation is under control. When I hear a lot of noise I go toward it and make sure that everything is ok. It’s part of my job,” he said.
Costopoulos serves as the Disciplinary Officer (DO) for the Faculty of Arts. When asked whether he was present in his capacity as DO and would investigate any McGill students taking part in the action he said that “unless they were engaged in clear immediate breaches of the Code, of course not, no.”
“Everything was okay here. There was no violence. There was no pushing or shoving – it was just some people walking through the building. That’s fine. There’s no problem with that,” he added.
In Redpath, a verbal altercation occurred between two McGill students, who had been working in a study room on the first floor of Redpath, and several student demonstrators. The McGill students yelled “no” at demonstrators, who were chanting “wake up.”
Security agents who were present nearby restrained one of the McGill students and spoke with the McGill students as demonstrators left the library. Before demonstrators entered the Desautels building, one fire cracker was set off.
Demonstrators marched through different levels of the building pausing to chant on each floor and in the stairwells. Security blocked demonstrators from entering classrooms on the third floor.
The demonstrators exited Desautels at 11:40 a.m. The demonstration dwindled to 60 students who halted traffic and began to march west on Sherbrooke. At Roddick Gates, a police escort – with at least two police vehicles in front of demonstrators and two behind – accompanied the march until they reached the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) at rue Jeanne-Mance.
McGill’s demonstration blog was updated nine times throughout the course of the demonstration. At 10:20 a.m. the blog estimated 150 demonstrators participated.