Message from Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal
(Administration and Finance)
Earlier this morning, just before 9 a.m., we asked the Montreal police to evict the nine remaining protestors that had been occupying the sixth-floor offices of James Building since Tuesday morning.
For the eviction, standard police procedure was followed. First, McGill security personnel read the occupiers a formal eviction notice in the presence of police. The occupiers were told they had five minutes to collect their belongings and leave the building of their own accord, or the police would physically remove them. They were also informed that if the police had to physically remove them, the police could charge them with resisting arrest. Police do not lay charges for resisting arrest if protestors leave of their own accord. The police did not wear protective gear, such as helmets, or carry shields or batons.
All the protestors walked out of the building and off campus peacefully.
The occupiers were offered first aid and assistance, food and also the contact for counseling services in the event they needed to talk with someone. They gave the security agents a letter of apology to the staff who work in this area.
Many of you have asked the senior administration to explain the reasoning behind the decisions that we make, particularly on difficult issues such as these where opinion is strongly divided.
We did not feel that it was fair to the people who work in the building or who work on the security team to keep the building open. Recent events have made many people in James very nervous about their work space being taken over unexpectedly and without their consent. We felt that the presence of occupiers could also attract further demonstrations in front of the James Building, as it has this past week, and possibly preventing staff, students and professors from entering or leaving the building, as has happened with recent demonstrations.
Keeping the building open also posed the risk that the occupation would spread to other offices. On Thursday, the protestors initially agreed to leave another sixth-floor office after meeting with Professor Nicell but then occupied the office, so I believe the risk of an expanding occupation was real.
University activities had been obstructed for five days, and after many attempts to talk to the protestors about leaving the building peacefully, tactics to make the protestors uncomfortable in the space and after discussion of other options, we were no closer to a resolution. We do not believe that negotiations on key matters concerning the university should take place under occupation or threat of occupation. For example, negotiations on the referendum need to take place with QPIRG only, not the occupiers (CKUT and the administration had an agreement). Therefore, we were prepared to talk only about how the occupiers might leave, while the occupiers wanted to negotiate only on their demands.
Yesterday, the protestors told Professor Nicell that they were disconnecting the land line we provided and would not talk any more.
At the same time, it became unfeasible to enter another week without use of the building to conduct the work of the University. Members of the senior administration decided that activities at the James Building should resume Monday morning, and that a full day would be needed to clean the building in preparation for McGill employees to return to work.
The decision to evict the occupiers was a tough choice. Everyone involved in the decision wishes that this could have ended sooner, voluntarily, and without police intervention. We are very glad to see that the eviction went peacefully.