(The time of day is indicated in parentheses and is approximate.)
On the afternoon of November 10, a major protest against tuition fee increases in Quebec was underway in downtown Montreal (“tuition protest”). Twenty to thirty thousand protesters were marching peacefully through the streets of the city, with the Montreal office of the Premier of Quebec as their ultimate destination. Dozens of police officers were on duty to control the crowd, block the streets, and guarantee the safety of the protesters.
As this was happening, two of the fifth floor occupiers entered the James Building (15:00). They hid in a washroom for approximately one hour. Most or all of their colleagues assembled on the corner of University and Avenue des Pins, waiting for a signal that the tuition protest had reached the corner of McGill College and Sherbrooke, near Premier Charest’s office. Around 16:00, they received their signal and made their way to the Back door of the James Building. The Back door was not locked. They were met in the vestibule of the Back door by the two who had been hiding inside. The entire group of fourteen (twelve men and two women) then ascended the North Stairwell. It has been alleged that all the occupiers were McGill students, but I have been unable to verify this fact.
On the fifth floor, the group crossed to the South side of the building, and entered the Reception area. There was no one at the reception desk. Most of the occupiers assumed positions in the Reception area where they could not be seen by the staff who were inside the Provost’s door (16:06). Two or three occupiers, worried about being recognized or about the potential negative consequences of their actions, covered their faces with bandanas, and hoods or hats. One occupier, whose face was uncovered, carried a furled banner, which looked like a long stick with cloth attached to it. Another occupier, whose face was also uncovered, knocked on the window of the Provost’s door. As noted above, the Provost’s door is controlled by card access. A member of the Provost’s staff opened the door. The occupier announced that “this is a peaceful occupation” and put his body or foot in the doorway. The staff member tried to push the door closed. Several occupiers resisted and pushed the door open with their bodies. There was no direct physical contact between the occupiers and the staff member, although the door hit the staff member as the occupiers entered the Secure area and she suffered a bruise on her arm. The occupiers did not physically touch any member of the Provost’s or the Principal’s staff.
Here, I note that the occupation of the fifth floor of the James Building was not a spontaneous event. While some accounts suggest that it was planned up to three weeks in advance, I have been unable to verify this fact. Nonetheless, two points clearly suggest some advance planning. First, the occupiers came to the fifth floor with a large banner, approximately 2.5 meters by 3.5 meters, secured to bamboo reeds. It read “10 Nov. Occupons McGill.” This banner was made in advance for the specific purpose of being flown from a fifth floor window; it could not have been easily used as a sign in a walking protest. Second, at least one of the fifth floor occupiers, accompanied by one other person, came to the James Building on November 8, 2011 to scout the location. One of the occupiers also told me that they had seen floor plans of the Secure area in advance of the occupation.
I also note that, at the time of occupiers’ forced entry into the Secure area, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum was not in her office – she had boarded a flight from Toronto to Montreal at 16:01. However, Susan Aberman (the Principal’s Chief of Staff), three members of the Principal’s staff, and two members of the Provost’s staff, were working in the Secure area. Provost Anthony Masi, who is the chief academic officer (after the Principal) and whose office is in the Secure area, was chairing a meeting of the Academic Policy Committee (“APC”) on the 3rd floor of James. Deputy Provost Morton Mendelson, the Provost’s immediate deputy and whose office is on the sixth floor of James, was also in that meeting. Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa was in his office at the other end of the fifth floor. Vice-Principal (External Relations) Olivier Marcil was also in his office on the fifth floor. Pierre Barbarie, the Associate Director of University Safety (Security Services), was at the Roddick Gates with most of the operations management team, monitoring the progress of the tuition protest.
When the occupiers pushed open the Provost’s door, at least ten entered the Secure area. Three or four remained in the Reception area. The last occupier to enter the Secure area was holding the banner. A few occupiers were wearing bandanas and hats or hoods; the others had no face coverings. No one sat down. The ten occupiers in the Secure area moved from office to office, going from the Provost’s office and suite to Susan Aberman’s office. At least three occupiers entered the Principal’s office at one point or another. One unconfirmed account suggested that an occupier in the Principal’s office was seen going through the Principal’s papers. Some occupiers opened a window at the front of the building and flew the banner they had brought. Some tried to move furniture for an unspecified purpose but quickly abandoned that plan. At least one occupier tweeted that the Principal’s office had been occupied.
As they walked around, the occupiers repeated in loud voices that “this is a peaceful occupation” and that the staff was free to stay or leave. Collectively, they refused to discuss any grievances or demands with staff on the fifth floor. The occupiers placed a chair against the Provost’s door to keep it open. They circulated between the Reception area and the Secure area and began to arrange the space. Three occupiers stood at the Hallway doors and placed their weight against them.
Within the span of three minutes, six calls were made to the McGill Security Operations Center (#3000) from different locations on the fifth floor (16:05-16:08). At least two calls came from members of the Provost’s staff. One call came from a member of the staff of Vice-Principal Olivier Marcil. One call may have come from the Principal’s staff. In one call, McGill Security was told that “there is a huge group, they are blocking doors, it is really an emergency.” One member of the Principal’s staff pressed the “panic button.” This immediately lit up a signal in the Security Operations Center.
From the perspective of Security Services, a “panic button” signal calls for immediate security intervention. Two members of the Security Team who were inside the Ferrier Building were immediately dispatched to the fifth floor of James (16:06). The Controller informed Mr. Chris Carson, the senior member of the Operations Management Group, of the situation. From the fifth floor of the James Building, Susan Aberman called the Associate Director of University Safety (Security Services), Pierre Barbarie. Mr. Barbarie made his way from the Roddick Gates to the James Building with Mr. Carson and other members of the operations management team. The James Building was put on card-only access (16:08). One member of the Provost’s staff tried to reach the Provost by email. The Provost did not get the message as his cell phone was in his office and he was chairing the APC meeting on the third floor.
Vice-Principal Marcil and at least one member of his staff, having heard and seen the occupiers enter the fifth floor, went to the Hallway doors. Three occupiers were already using their weight to keep the doors shut and continued to block the doors. Vice-Principal Marcil could see that the occupiers had made their way into the Secure area. After knocking on the door and failing to gain access to the Reception area, Vice-Principal Marcil, his staff member and a member of the custodial staff entered the Secure area through the fire exit (16:08). Since the occupiers blocked the Hallway doors for much of the occupation, this fire exit was used several times by staff and security over the next hour to enter the Secure area.
At the same time, outside the James Building, a small group of protesters moved from the Roddick Gates to the James Building (16:08). There are indications that this movement and similar ones that followed were requested by the occupiers so as to build a demonstration on James Square while the occupation was taking place. The presence of protesters in front of the James Building may have been arranged with the fifth floor occupiers in advance of the occupation, but I have not been able to determine this with certainty. It is established that the fifth floor occupiers were in contact with protesters outside the James Building via cell phone and twitter throughout the late afternoon of November 10.
Inside the Secure area on the fifth floor, a staff member began to film the occupiers with his cellphone. The staff member ripped the hat off one occupier’s head. This occupier (hereinafter Occupier A) was also wearing a bandana. Occupier A yelled that this was an assault (16:09). The staff member continued to film the occupiers inside the Secure area and the Reception area, taunting them and telling them that they should be worried about the consequences of their actions. Several occupiers covered their heads and faces or sought to avoid being filmed.
Members of the Security Team (the community relations team and three Securitas agents) came up the South stairwell and were met by occupiers at the Stairwell doors. Six or seven occupiers came out of the Secure area to block access to the Reception area. At least three occupiers were wearing bandanas and hats or hoods. Members of the Security Team informed the occupiers that they had received a panic alarm and that they had to get into the Reception area. The occupiers physically blocked them access to the Reception area and repeated in loud voices that “it is a peaceful occupation” (16:10).
At this time, reports over the Security Team’s radio channel indicated that more protesters were heading from the Roddick Gates towards the James Building (16:10).
Inside James, three members of the Operations Management Group arrived at the Hallway doors on the fifth floor. Three occupiers were still blocking these doors. The three members of the Operations Management Group tried to push their way into the Reception area, using force on the doors, without success. They decided to enter the Secure area through the fire exit (16:11). Meanwhile, Vice-Principal Michael Di Grappa met with Pierre Barbarie on the fourth floor of the James Building, where they discussed the situation (16:12).
One member of the Operations Management Group, now inside the Secure area, removed the chair holding the Provost’s door, and tried to close the door. Several occupiers who were in the Reception area pushed their way back into the Secure area, forcing the Provost’s door to remain open (16:12). From the fifth floor landing of the South stairwell, three members of the Security Team forcefully pushed their way past the occupiers blocking access from the Stairwell doors, and entered the Reception area. Most of the occupiers gathered in the Reception area; there was much yelling and tension in the room.
One member of the Security Team was watching the scene through the windows of the Hallway doors, along with two staff members. Upon hearing one of the staff members say that “the police should probably be called,” the member of the Security Team called the Security Operations Center. He advised the Controller that the police should be called. The Controller called 911 and informed the police that there were fifteen to twenty protesters inside the James Building, that McGill Security was on site and that there may be more protestors coming (16:12). As far as I can ascertain, that was the only call for assistance to 911 or to police authorities that was made by any member of the Security Team or McGill authorities during the afternoon and evening of November 10.
Pierre Barbarie, still on the fourth floor of the James Building, was informed that the police had been called. He sent a Securitas agent to meet the police at the Milton Gates and gave instructions that the police were to wait outside of the James Building until he authorized them to enter (16:12).
Meanwhile, the Provost’s door was closed by a member of the Security Team and automatically locked. Two members of the Security Team remained in the Reception area with twelve of the occupiers. At least five other members of the Security Team were inside the Secure area. Only two occupiers (Occupier A, as previously identified, and Occupier B, another occupier) remained inside the Secure area (16:12). While Occupier A was wearing a hat and a bandana, Occupier B was not covering his face. Occupier A ran inside the Principal’s office and sat at her desk. Occupier B was also standing in the Principal’s office. Both occupiers were told in a loud voice that they had to leave. Occupier B indicated that he has osteoporosis and warned in a loud voice that he was not to be touched. A member of the Security Team grabbed his jacket, pulled and pushed him out of the Principal’s office, through the Provost’s suite, and to the Provost’s door. The other occupiers in the Reception area gathered at the Provost’s door. There was a lot of yelling, pushing and shoving (16:13). Occupier B was pushed back into the Reception area, on his feet, and the Provost’s door was closed again.
While Occupier B was being evicted from the Secure area, Occupier A refused to leave the Principal’s office. He sat in the Principal’s chair for sixty to ninety seconds. A member of the Security team then tipped the chair and Occupier A fell to the floor. One member of the Security Team pulled Occupier A by the arm and dragged him, on the floor, out of the Principal’s office and through the Provost’s suite. Occupier A managed to free himself from the grip of the security personnel, and sat against the wall in a location close to the Provost’s door, but still inside the Secure area. At that time, three members of the Security Team lifted him up, one holding his back and two more holding his feet. The Provost’s door was opened. Again, the occupiers gathered at the door. Again, there was much yelling, pushing and shoving (16:14). Three members of the Security Team carried Occupier A through the doorway. He grabbed the doorframe on the way out and forcefully resisted the eviction. Amid much commotion, Occupier A was put down in the Reception area, feet first, but he seemed to be out of balance and he fell forward as if he was pushed from behind. The Provost’s door was then closed. Occupier A remained on the floor for a few minutes, winded.
By 16:14, the occupation of the Secure area was over, having lasted eight minutes. I have found no convincing evidence of punching or kicking, either by the occupiers or by members of the Security Team. There was much pushing and shoving, and it is undeniable that members of the Security Team used force to remove two occupiers from the Secure area. One of the two was pushed out, on his feet. The other was carried out. I have found no evidence that any significant force was used against any of the other twelve occupiers. However, the Security Team did push its way into the Reception area, and the occupiers actively resisted this effort (at least one with his hands in the air). None of the fifth floor occupiers were touched by anyone after 16:14.
From 16:14 to 17:35, the fourteen occupiers remained in the Reception area. The community relations team was with them, standing by the reception desk. One Securitas agent stood next to the Stairwell doors. Three occupiers were still blocking the Hallway doors with the weight of their bodies. During this period, the occupiers were not told by anyone that they were detained, and none of the occupiers were physically restrained by anyone. One member of the Security Team told the group that they could and should leave. With three members of the Security Team in the reception area with them, it may have been ambiguous to the occupiers whether they were allowed to leave. I note that one of the occupiers later indicated to me he had not considered leaving the premises, by that point.
Be that as it may, in the thirty minutes that immediately followed the eviction of the two occupiers from the Secure area, several of the occupiers paced around the Reception area, communicating with the outside world. Multiple electronic messages were sent out and calls were made indicating that the Security Team was or had been violent, and was using or had used excessive force. One occupier tweeted “Students violently assaulted by security guards at OCCUPATION OF PRINCIPALS OFFICE.” A phone call was made by one occupier, indicating that she was part of the occupation the fifth floor of the James Building, that security had been violent, and that the occupiers had been given the number for a live interview with CKUT. The interview did not take place at this time.
By 16:18, between twenty and thirty protesters were standing outside the Front door of the James Building. More protesters broke off from the main group at the Roddick Gates and headed towards James (16:19). Several protesters pulled on the locked Front door of the James Building and tried to force the magnetic lock. Up to thirty protesters were at the Back door of the James Building, also trying to get in (16:19).
One member of the Provost’s staff tried two more times to reach the Provost (by email and by cellphone), but was unsuccessful (16:15, 16:19). Vice-Principal Di Grappa called Deputy Provost Mendelson’s cellphone (16:19). Upon hearing about the occupation, Deputy Provost Mendelson left the APC meeting on the third floor of James. Provost Masi was not informed of the situation and continued to chair the meeting. Deputy Provost Mendelson made his way to the fifth floor and entered the Reception area from the Stairwell door (16:22). The occupiers were still standing, pacing around, phoning and texting. Only two or three occupiers were still covering their faces or heads. Deputy Provost Mendelson spoke with the occupiers until 16:28 and then left the Reception area. He then went down to the fourth floor, back up the North staircase and entered the Secure area using the fire exit.
At 16:24, a Securitas agent reported that a group of protesters had tried to enter the Leacock Building and confirmed that all doors at Leacock had been secured. Other reports indicated that protesters were trying to enter the James Building through the Southwest door. Others had jumped into the window wells of the ground floor of James (16:28). There was a lot of yelling outside each of the doors to the James Building and tension was building.
Inside, in the Reception area, the occupiers were still communicating with the outside world using their phones. Some were snacking. The mood appeared to be more relaxed (16:29-16:44). One occupier was interviewed by phone for CKUT (16:37-16:44). The interview was not broadcast until much later, around 17:50.
At the tuition protest at McGill College and Sherbrooke, people in the crowd invited others to “Occupy McGill.” One security agent advised that a group of people, entering through the Milton Gates, had joined the group in James Square (16:30-16:35).
At the Roddick Gates, two police officers in a police car met with members of the Security Team, and indicated that they were responding to Security’s 911 call (made approximately 20 minutes earlier). Accompanied by a member of the Security Team, the two police officers (one on foot and the other by car) made their way from Roddick Gates to the area in front of the McConnell Engineering Building, and then up to the East side of the James Building (16:36). They were met there by two other police officers who had just driven onto campus through Milton Gates, having called the McGill SOC to get directions. This second police car had been called as backup by the first police pair. One member of the Security Team took the four police officers to the Back door of the James Building. There, approximately thirty protesters blocked the door and formed a human chain to prevent access to the building. The police officers and the member of the Security Team entered James through the Annex, after one protester failed in his attempt to block this door. They made their way to the fifth floor and entered the Secure area through the fire exit (16:45). The police did not come into contact with the occupiers at this time.
Fearing a simultaneous occupation of multiple buildings, the McGill Security Team put Dawson Hall, the Leacock Building and the Redpath Museum on card-only access (16:37). At the front door of the James Building, angry protesters demanded to be let in, saying they had information that the fifth floor occupiers were being beaten up and held against their will by McGill Security. Tension was rising. At this time, it was estimated that approximately one hundred twenty protesters were gathered outside in the space between the Front door and the Southwest door. The three members of the Security Team standing at the Front door of James were pinned to their location. Approximately one dozen protesters were standing very close to the Front door, forming a human chain (16:43).
Inside James, one member of the Provost’s staff went to the APC meeting and informed the Provost of the situation on the fifth floor (16:46). The Provost immediately left the meeting, went to the fifth floor through the North staircase, and entered the Secure area through the fire exit. He did not talk to or encounter the occupiers at this time. The four police officers were already inside the Principal’s office, along with senior members of the Security Team, Susan Aberman, Vice-Principal Di Grappa, Vice-Principal Marcil and Deputy Provost Mendelson (16:48). At some point in this discussion, the police officers informed the Provost that the police would be able to evict the occupiers if that was the University’s wish. The Provost was adamant that the situation could be resolved without police eviction of the occupiers.
Around 16:45, members of the Principal’s and Provost’s staffs tried to leave through the Back door of the James Building, accompanied by a member of the Security Team, but all exits were blocked by protesters. The staff members returned to the Secure area (16:49). Many people working on all floors of the James Building, preparing to leave for the day, were confused about - or unaware of - what was happening inside and outside the building and did not know whether they should stay in their offices or attempt to leave. Those who did try to leave were not sure which exit, if any, was safe.
At the corner of McGill College and Sherbrooke, a person with a megaphone announced the occupation at McGill and invited protesters to participate in a rally of support. Large groups of protesters broke from the crowd and made their way onto campus. One person called McGill Security and asked, in French, “Where is the James Building?” (16:49).
At 16:49, having been told by people outside James that the police had entered the building, the occupiers on the fifth floor sat down in a circle and locked arms. The three occupiers who had been securing the Hallway doors since the beginning of the occupation left their post and joined the others in the circle.
At the same moment, a staff member who works in the James Building left through the Southwest door, despite the presence of a significant number of protesters outside. As he went out, he was insulted by protesters and hit in the neck by a small object. Once opened, the Southwest door – an automatic door - remained open long enough for a few protesters to get in. There was a brief struggle between them and a security guard who tried to keep the door closed. The guard was eventually overpowered and fell to the floor. Twenty to thirty protesters rushed into the area. One protester who was at the front of the group violently collided with a member of the Security Team who had just arrived to block further access to the second floor. The protester fell to the ground (16:49). The member of the Security Team stopped the progress of this group in the second floor hallway. These protesters (“second floor occupiers”) sat on the floor (16:51). The group of protesters outside continued to grow in the space between the Front door and the Southwest door.
By this time, multiple buildings around the main campus perimeter had been put on card-only access. The McGill Security Operations Center was beginning to receive calls from members of the McGill community who were having difficulty entering or exiting various buildings. Several people reported being unable to get to their offices or labs. One person reported getting trapped in the stairwell between the Arts Building and the Ferrier Building, with no functional exit.
At roughly the same time (16:50), a group of ten to fifteen police on bicycles entered campus through the Milton Gates. From all of the information I have, I cannot, with certainty, explain the presence of this group of police on bicycles. One thing is certain: at this time, large contingents of police officers were already close to the McGill campus, as they were monitoring the tuition protest on the corner of McGill College and Sherbrooke. It is possible that the four police officers that responded to the 911 call regarding the fifth floor occupation relayed to their supervisor what they had seen on James Square. It is also possible – indeed that is the most likely explanation, on the basis of the information I have received – that the police saw the growing number of protesters on James Square as an offshoot of the tuition protest taking place on Sherbrooke and McGill College. In any case, I have found no evidence supporting the thesis that this group of police officers on bicycles was invited onto campus by members of the Security Team or by members of the University administration. This said, it is established that, upon the officers’ arrival, a member of the McGill Security Team spoke to them and described the situation as “15 occupiers on the fifth floor of James, and another 15-20 occupiers on the second floor of James”.
Six or seven police officers on bicycles moved in the direction of the crowd gathered in front of the James Building. The rest of the officers remained on the East side of the Square, close to Wilson Hall. Accounts diverge at this point. Some say these police officers went into the crowd and violently assaulted the protesters by putting their bikes upright and hitting protesters with their front wheels. The Montreal Police Service says, on the other hand, that one officer’s bicycle was grabbed and taken away by protesters during the confrontation. At least one bicycle wheel was indeed later used by the crowd as a projectile. Although I need not decide this, I find somewhat unlikely that six or seven police officers violently charged their bicycles into a crowd of several dozen protesters, given the risk at which they would have put themselves in doing so. A third set of accounts say that the police officers with bicycles moved into the crowd of protestors, perhaps intending to get to the Southwest door. They were met with resistance and pulled their bikes upright as a defensive measure as they backed away, also using pepper spray to keep the protesters at bay (16:52). These accounts form the bulk of accounts that speak to this issue, and are confirmed by videos currently in the public domain which show the confrontation. These videos show that, as the police officers proceeded slowly into the crowd, the protesters chanted “human chain!”, the volume of the crowd escalated, a blow horn sounded several times, some protestors yelled “pas de violence!”, and other people in James Square ran towards the crowd. The police then backed away from the crowd with their bicycles pulled upright, while some protestors threw various projectiles in the direction of the police. The police officers on bicycles retreated down the slope, and then back to the Milton Gates. The crowd cheered, following them to the bottom of the slope. One witness described this moment as an “incredible boost of energy” for the protesters.
At 16:57, a member of the Montreal Police Service called the McGill SOC and informed the agent on duty that the police had information about protesters who were trying to occupy McGill premises, and advised McGill Security to be vigilant. The agent at the SOC replied that McGill security was aware of the occupation, that it had been ongoing for almost an hour, and that there were fifteen to twenty occupiers on the fifth floor, a small group on the second floor of James, and over one hundred and twenty protesters in the area around the James Building. The conversation ended without any request for assistance being made by McGill Security. As far as I can ascertain, the conversation went no further than this exchange between a police officer and the agent at the McGill Security Operations Center.
On the basis of the information I have received, it is highly likely that the initial confrontation with the police officers on bicycles was the trigger for the arrival of the Montreal Police Intervention Group. I have found no evidence whatsoever that its presence or its subsequent actions were requested by McGill Security or University authorities. A few minutes after the police officers on bicycles retreated, a group of approximately twenty-five police officers wearing helmets and carrying shields and batons entered through Milton Gates. They hit their shields with batons, producing an intimidating sound. This sound was repeated over the next several minutes, each time signaling that the squad was moving forward. A police helicopter was flying overhead. Another group of approximately twenty-five to fifty police officers similarly equipped made their way up from the Roddick Gates towards the Macdonald Engineering Building and Dawson Hall (16:58). The first group of officers established a line perpendicular to the James Building and moved up the slope. When the line got to the Front door, police officers used pepper spray at close range to dislodge the protesters blocking the door. Three members of the McGill Security Team standing at the door were also sprayed. The crowd was pushed back towards the Ferrier Building and Dawson Hall. Some protesters were seen picking up construction materials and pallets in the construction sites around James Square (16:58). Projectiles were thrown at the police line. A number of protesters sat down close to the line. The police line stood still for a while and then advanced again, pushing protesters with shields and batons, slowly advancing step by step.
An officer behind the line asked a member of the Security Team whether McGill wanted the second floor occupiers evacuated. One senior member of the Team replied by radio that the police should hold off for now and that McGill Security was attempting to first resolve the situation on the fifth floor (17:02). The police line formed again at the top of the slope on the west side of James Square (17:06). A warning was heard on a megaphone used by the police. Approximately fifty to seventy-five members of the Police Intervention Group then pushed the protesters down the slope towards the East, again using shields, batons and pepper spray, advancing step by step. Observers, bystanders and people coming out of the McConnell Engineering Building were also pushed towards the Milton Gates. At least a handful of people reported being hit with a baton. Several reported being pepper-sprayed. A CKUT live report announced that “hundreds of riot police” were at the James Building and that occupiers on the fifth floor alleged to have been brutalized. The report encouraged all students to go to James Square and support the occupation (17:09). In James Square, amidst profanity and insults hurled at the police, several protesters could be heard saying they were peaceful. Others were calling for water after having been pepper-sprayed. Some were holding their hands up in the air as the crowd was pushed back down the steps of James Square, towards Milton Gates. The McConnell Engineering Building was put on lock-down by McGill security.
Inside James, the second floor occupiers who had been sitting down in the hallway got up and moved to the vestibule area between the two doors, blocking access to the building (17:07). A group of them remained there for more than twenty minutes.
Despite the lockdown, many people made their way into the McConnell Engineering Building. Some were looking for a place to wash the pepper spray from their face and eyes. The porter reported that people were holding the building doors open and that he could not secure the space (17:14). The Police Intervention Group then blocked entry into the McConnell Building (17:14).
Following the police action to clear James Square and the surrounding areas, a large dense crowd had formed at the bottom of James Square. A police line briefly charged towards the crowd and moved it past the Milton Gates.
Back at the Southwest door of the James Building, a police officer asked a member of the Security Team whether the second floor occupiers (now standing in the space between the two doors) should be evacuated. A senior member of the Security Team replied by radio that the focus remained on the fifth floor occupiers, and that this situation had to be addressed first (17:17). Police on the fifth floor and police outside the Southwest door communicated using cell phones belonging to two members of the McGill Security Team.
At 17:20, Provost Anthony Masi and Deputy Provost Morton Mendelson entered the Reception area on the fifth floor. The occupiers had been sitting in a circle with locked arms for the past 30 minutes. They asked the occupiers how they wanted the occupation to end. The occupiers replied that they wished to leave the building unharmed and without facing criminal or disciplinary charges. The Provost and the Deputy Provost left the Reception area to consider this request (17:23). One occupier tweeted “Attempting to secure release.” A senior member of the Security Team on the fifth floor informed a member of the Security Team on the second floor that the fifth floor occupiers would likely leave on their own (17:23).
Outside, the police moved the crowd onto Milton. They threw what appeared to be a rubber ball blast grenade, which produced a loud noise and released an irritant. At the corner of University and Milton, the police established a line and held it (17:25). The crowd of protestors was gathered in front of the line. Some protesters were sitting or kneeling directly in front of the line, while others were standing and milling about. The police announced in English and in French that the crowd must disperse immediately. Members of the crowd chanted and yelled. The police announced, again, through a megaphone, that they would give no further chances and would use all necessary force to disperse the crowd. Members of the crowd continued to yell and chant.
At 17:29, Provost Masi and Deputy Provost Mendelson returned to the Reception area and confirmed that the occupiers would be given “one free pass” – no criminal charges or disciplinary charges would be laid against them. The fifth floor occupiers requested the same amnesty for the second floor occupiers. After a brief deliberation, the Provost and Deputy Provost agreed to these terms. At the same time, a member of the Security Team read an eviction notice, in French and in English, to the second floor occupiers. All the second floor occupiers then left the building (17:30). On the fifth floor, all the occupiers got up and left the building accompanied by Provost Masi, Deputy Provost Mendelson, four police officers and a few members of the Security Team. They went down the North staircase to the second floor. In the second floor vestibule, they encountered a line of police officers. Seven or eight of the occupiers had their faces covered. They exited the James Building through the Back door, unharmed (17:35).
A moment earlier, at the corner of University and Milton, the Intervention Group charged at the crowd on Milton and chased the protesters until Durocher Street, stopping at each block between University and Durocher. The pursuit lasted until 17:39. By 17:45 the crowd had dispersed, and the Intervention Group, with four police on horses, moved back through campus and towards the Roddick Gates. Many protesters who had clashed with or been confronted by the Intervention Group on James Square gathered in the various offices of student organizations across campus, and received support and assistance throughout the evening.
Also, at 17:45, the Principal’s flight had landed in Montreal and she communicated with her office. The Principal learnt of the attempted occupation of her office that began as she was boarding the plane and of the sequence of events that took place thereafter. By speakerphone, she discussed the events with the senior administrators gathered in her office.
Around this time, access to buildings around the main campus perimeter was slowly reinstated, except for the James Building and the McConnell Engineering Building. Several staff from the James Building reported being able to leave as of 17:45. Students trying to get into the Leacock Building for exams or classes were required to show their ID cards. Some had been turned away earlier. Organizers of a disabilities studies conference in the Leacock Building – scheduled to start at 18:00 - were initially prevented from accessing the building and people trying to attend the conference were reportedly turned away, told the conference was cancelled or told to come back later. The transport of people with disabilities who were trying to attend this conference was also disrupted.
At 18:15, the campus was quiet again.