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McGill community gathers to reflect on events of Nov. 10

Sam Reynolds

Over 1,000 people gathered yesterday in James Square to discuss the riot police presence of Nov. 10 and its impact on the community.  In an open-mic session, students, faculty, and community members offered their own experiences with the riot police and made suggestions on how to move forward and learn from the incident.

The event began at noon, when over a hundred students gathered at the Roddick Gates and peacefully protested the police violence witnessed Thursday evening. Half an hour later, the group marched to James Square and gathered in the area. At 12:45 p.m., the assembly commenced with an opening speech by U2 arts student Taylor Lawson, recounting the events of Nov. 10.

“The intention of this afternoon is to create time and space for people to express and articulate what they experienced, because this is a community issue and we need to work through it as a whole,” he said.

Present at the forum were students, faculty, and senior administrators Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning Morton Mendelson and Principal Heather Munroe-Blum

Following Lawson’s speech, organizers played a recording of the sounds of police on campus, recalling the violence and subsequent student confusion that night. The audio clips were taken from videos on TVM and YouTube, and from a broadcast by CKUT radio. There was a minute of silence at the end of the recording, allowing the crowd to reflect and “collectively move on,” as described by TVM’s Molly Bower. 

The assembly organizers then proposed to change the name of James Square to “Community Square,” in order to reclaim the area of the disturbances. Those gathered voted in favour of the new name.

Students and faculty expressed their experiences and suggestions for the future in an open-mic style forum. Although some of the rhetoric was heated, most speakers encouraged communication with the administration and called for dialogue between on-campus groups to foster community engagement.

“An academic community is an environment in which there is a diversity of views, whether it be about tuition increases, MUNACA’s demands, the nature of limitations on speech in various parts of the university, [or] about student tactics in bringing about change in university,” Arash Abizadeh, professor of political science, said. “But it is important that those diverse views find ways to be able to express themselves.”

Matthew Crawford, undergraduate representative to the McGill Senate and one of the 14 demonstrators who occupied the fifth floor of the James Administration Building, also addressed the crowd. 

“The occupation of James Admin is thought to be as controversial as the presence of police on campus—a point of view I find disappointing and shocking in a university,” he said.

Many used the forum to promote free post-secondary education for all. Another recurring theme among the speakers was increased student representation in the administration’s decision-making process.

“While the students are represented in the university’s framework, our presence is insufficient to allow a serious treatment of student concerns,” Crawford said. “Forms of discussion are only open only for the student voice to be subsumed to the ready-made decisions of the administration. What we have is the ghost of a discourse … designed to placate rather than to include.”

Joël Pedneault, SSMU VP External, tied the events of Nov. 10 to broader social struggles.

“I feel like it’s important for us to not forget that Thursday’s protests were not only something that is historic for campus and for McGill, but also something that’s part of a global movement,” he said. “They’re part of a broader movement that has been growing for decades.”

Brian Cowan, an associate professor in the department of history, called the gathering a “moment of learning” and discussed the importance of student and faculty presence with the Tribune.

“This is an experiment in watching a revolution happen right here and now,” Cowan said. 

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