Shutting down university parties is something that police officers are well accustomed to, but the 6Party occupation brought them face-to-face with an unorthodox gathering that only some could describe as festive. In 6Party and The After Party, an hour-long radio documentary written, produced, and co-narrated by fourth-year arts student Davide Mastracci, that exact group takes the spotlight in this revisiting of the event.
‘6Party’ refers to the six-day occupation of the James Administration Building that occurred in February 2012. It was a political event that directly involved a small group of occupiers and administrators, but had a polarizing effect on McGill’s entire campus as many students found themselves either sympathizing with the occupiers, or condemning their tactics.
The documentary retells the story of the 6Party occupation, with commentary and reflections in hindsight of the event from administrator Doug Sweet, McGill’s director of media relations; Louise Burns, a representative from campus radio station CKUT; and a slew of current and former students that participated in the occupation.
Absent from the program are students who did not support the occupation when it occurred. In a written statement about the documentary, Mastracci explains that the piece “focuses on the story of the party from the angle of the party guests themselves.” Although the documentary’s ambition is no secret, it is disappointing to hear zero commentary from a student with a stake on the other side of the fence regarding such a sensitive issue in McGill’s recent history.
This is not to imply that the opposing viewpoint is ignored entirely—perspectives of students who did not support 6Party, such as those who joined the Facebook event “The James Sixth Floor Occupiers Do Not Represent Me,” are briefly discussed, and Mastracci reads a letter from one of the organizers of an anti-6Party event that outlines their views. Co-narrator and arts student Hannah Besseau laments that no leaders of ModPAC, a political campus group that formed to promote a more moderate discourse between students and faculty, agreed to be interviewed for the documentary. Still, even the voice of an average opinionated student would have been a welcome addition to a slate of student interviewees that is oversaturated by occupiers.
The documentary succeeds in accomplishing its main objectives: giving the listener a thorough explanation for why 6Party occurred, discussing how it was organized and executed, and giving the occupiers a chance to reflect on the experience. Mastracci transports listeners back to 2007, where changes to the opt-out system regarding student fees for student-sponsored organizations CKUT and the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) laid the groundwork for the issues that would characterize 6Party. Later, the occupiers discuss the entire process of the occupation and share anecdotes such as planning it in Gerts using code words, and delivering food to the occupants on the 6th floor of the James Building using a pulley system.
Some may be surprised to hear the variance in opinion that is offered about the impact of 6Party, both in how it was able to assist CKUT and QPIRG, and its more general consequences. “I think the occupation probably had a negative effect on the [winter CKUT] referendum,” reflects one occupier in the documentary. He continues to add that “a large group of students who wouldn’t normally be particularly political were politicized in a reactionary way.” In contrast, another occupier felt that “at least it shook up the McGill status quo enough that the people who embodied that status quo wanted to take action. If only because of that, it was worthwhile.”
A promising aspect of the documentary that goes unfulfilled is its integration of non-vocal audio, which is greatly underutilized throughout. Initially, Mastracci draws the listener in with a pulsing background noise that creates an unsettling ambiance as he revisits the Quebec student protest movement during the tumultuous 2011-2012 academic year. After the introduction, however, that auditory element disappears until the conclusion, save for the repetitive five-second sound clip that separates the various sections of the documentary, and a short audio clip that records the initial moments of the occupation. Such little variance from the regular speaking that comprises the bulk of the program often comes across as monotonous.
Both literally and figuratively, 6Party and The After Party aims to empower the student voice at McGill; it unravels the threads of a long standing point of contention, provides a forum for the occupiers to express their thoughts on what they did, and also allows them to connect with a new wave of students who didn’t witness the occupation or its immediate effects firsthand. However, its preoccupation with the occupiers’ perspective leaves a vacant space at this after party for the missing, perhaps more moderate student voice that 6Party helped to awaken.
6Party and The After Party will be aired Sept. 13 at 5pm on CKUT (90.3 FM).
Hear the documentary: https://soundcloud.