Individuals associated with Demilitarize McGill, a group seeking to end military research at McGill, blockaded all entrances into the James Administration building on March 24.
The blockade began at 7:30 a.m. and lasted nearly three hours, preventing students and employees from entering the building. The demonstrators, who remained masked for the entirety of the protest, held banners displaying slogans such as “Demilitarize McGill” and “Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Imperialist, Revolutionary Student Movement.”
Cadence, a student organizer with Demilitarize McGill, said that the James Administration building was chosen because of its centrality to McGill’s involvement with military research.
“The James Administration Building is both a symbolic and literal site of decision-making and control within which military collaborations are given approval and funding,” she said. “Blocking access to the building meant that this work was literally stopped, and blockaders were able to temporarily halt the functioning of the university administration centre to such an extent that workers started leaving.”
McGill’s Dean of Students, Andre Costopoulos, stated that he did not agree with Demilitarize McGill’s tactics.
“Demonstrating, assembling, and expressing yourself on campus are fundamental rights,” he said. “Obstructing the activities of other people is not acceptable.”
Pamphlets distributed by the demonstrators cited McGill’s involvement with certain research projects as “imperialist” and “colonialist” as the reason for the blockade.
Police and campus security were on site for the duration of the protest. Shortly after 10:00 a.m., the protesters dispersed peacefully, allowing re-entrance to the building.
“Once many James Administration workers had gone home and the impact had been felt, it made sense to decide to disperse on the blockaders’ own terms rather than wait for a police presence to increase again and cause distress,” Cadence said.
Going forward, Cadence said she hopes that awareness for issues of military collaboration will improve at McGill.
“It is true that austerity and university corporatism and repression are under-discussed at McGill in comparison to other universities,” she said, “I definitely see more and more students getting interested and involved in this fight against military collaboration at McGill, which makes me think that actions like these are working.”
Costopoulos agreed that the issues being brought forward by Demilitarize McGill are ones that should be taken under consideration.
“Some of [Demilitarize McGill’s] literature raise very legitimate questions about research ethics and how we should conduct ourselves as a University community,” he said. “They are not the only one asking themselves those questions.”