Message to the community (Nov. 11, 2011)

Message on behalf of Principal Heather Munroe-Blum

I write to you following the disturbing events of yesterday. I was not on campus and did not witness the events firsthand.

Based on what I have been told, I have today asked our Dean of Law, Daniel Jutras, to conduct an independent investigation of the events and to report back to me on his findings by December 15, 2011.

I am taking this action based on the following information provided to me today:

Late Thursday afternoon, a group of protesters entered the unlocked James Administration Building and forced their way from a reception area outside the offices of the Provost and the Principal, pushing staff in the process. Some of them were masked and hooded. They refused to identify themselves.

Security personnel were called to deal with the situation. Over the course of a few minutes, they ushered most of the protesters back to the reception area, but a few refused to leave my office. These individuals were carried out to the reception area under protest, where they were then left undisturbed.

As a protest grew outside the building, apparently encouraged by social media messages from the protesters within, all exits to the building were effectively blocked by protesters, and employees who were trying to leave the building to go home could not do so. It was clearly a tense, stressful situation.

Security personnel called Montreal police. Four officers arrived to survey the situation. Police in the building did not speak with the occupying protesters or interact with them in any way. At no time were the protesters detained by McGill staff.

I understand that the Provost and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) spoke with the protesters more than once asking them what they wanted, and, about their plans and, ultimately, their desire to have the event end peacefully and safely. In exchange for a promise to leave immediately, quietly and peacefully, the Provost and Deputy Provost assured the protesters they would be allowed to leave the building with no consequences, including criminal charges, identification to police or disciplinary action on the part of the University. After consultation amongst themselves, they agreed and were escorted out by the Provost Anthony Masi and Deputy Provost Morton Mendelson.

The situation outside, and the presence of the riot squad, which dispersed the protesters by its usual means, was entirely directed by the Montreal police service.  

The presence of riot police on our campus is shocking.

We as a community, need to fully understand the events and the responses to them and I trust Dean Jutras will conduct a thorough, impartial review.

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