15 arrests made after pro-Palestinian protesters at McGill barricade themselves inside admin building, tear gas used on crowd outside

By News Staff

Montreal police (SPVM) made 15 arrests after pro-Palestinian protesters at McGill barricaded themselves inside the main administration building on Thursday afternoon and over 100 supporters gathered outside.

By early evening the SPVM’s specialized intervention group had gone inside to escort civilians out and used tear gas to disperse the crowd outside. They were also seen violently pushing protesters to the ground.

“Action taken by police officers onsite include shields and chemical irritants,” said SPVM spokesperson Véronique Dubuc. She added that protesters had thrown objects and stones at police officers.

It all ended around 10:30 p.m.

Thirteen people were arrested from inside the building for breaking and entering and two outside the building for obstructing police work. Police also say that there were various reports of graffiti and vandalism.

About 100 protesters had gathered at the James Administration Building. Metal fencing was erected in front of its entrance, with protesters standing in front holding banners.

Police in riot gear confronted the crowd outside and fired tear gas and pepper spray in an effort to disperse them shortly after 7 p.m.

In a statement Friday morning, McGill University said, “None of this is peaceful protesting. It is designed to threaten, coerce and scare people. It is completely unacceptable.”

The SPVM said it has no intention of intervening in a pro-Palestinian encampment on the downtown campus. SPVM officer Jean-Pierre Brabant said on Friday that police had intervened on Thursday because crimes were being committed, which was not the case with the encampment. He would not say whether the people arrested were involved in the camp.

“As far as the encampment is concerned, nothing is going to change,” said Brabant, adding that it was up to the university to convince the court to dismantle the encampment.

Pro-Palestinian protest McGill
People gather at a pro-Palestinian protest in front of the McGill University administration building in Montreal on Thursday, June 6, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
Pro-Palestinian protest McGill
Police stand guard on the McGill University campus following a pro-Palestinian protest in Montreal, Thursday, June 6, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

‘Part of global call to action’

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill said in a press release Thursday afternoon that the protest was “part of the global call to action #Escalate4Rafah.”

In social media videos posted in the afternoon, protesters could be seen waving a Palestinian flag from the building window and holding a sign that said, “You could have divested 41 days ago.”

“Students have blockaded themselves inside the building, taking ownership of their university,” wrote SPHR McGill.

On Friday morning, McGill thanked police “for their expertise in handling the situation.” 

“During the occupation, protesters blockaded several entry doors, using chains or furniture, and attempted to remove inner doors to access offices. They vandalized parts of the exterior and interior of the building and locked themselves in one room and damaged furniture. Protesters also attempted to build a barricade outside the building but police quickly dismantled it. Some staff were forced to shelter in place while those occupying the building banged on the doors and yelled threats. Staff working in the building reported that they heard chants of ‘violence now.'” 

McGill added that it supports the right to freedom of expression within the limits recognized by law. “We strongly condemn the use of intimidating, aggressive, harassing or illegal tactics such as those seen yesterday. This troubling event is the latest escalation in a series of incidents that have occurred since April 27, when the encampment first appeared on McGill’s lower field.”  

SPHR McGill claims that the university invests over $20 million in technology and weapons manufacturing companies that are directly involved in operations in Gaza. “Moreover, the university is involved in exchange programs with Israeli universities.”

SPHR McGill listed Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems, and Thales as examples of companies they want McGill to divest from and boycott.

“This barricade is part of a wave of mass movement of students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters standing in solidarity with Gaza,” and demanding that universities divest and end all ties with Israel and its universities. 

Pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill

A pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill has been set-up on the lower field of their downtown campus since April 27 – and demonstrators have said they have no intention of leaving. Two emergency injunction requests by the university to dismantle the camp were rejected by Quebec Superior Court judges.

Last week, McGill president Deep Saini published a letter calling for a stronger police response following escalating tensions. Saini listed incidents where protesters had followed university administrators to their homes and demonstrated outside.

“The McGill administration has the power and ability to answer the democratically-articulated demands of the student body, and as long as they refuse, students will continue standing up,” write SPHR McGill.

“The McGill administration has repeatedly tried to engage in dialogue with McGill students in the encampment. Last week, it reached out to re-open discussions after encampment leaders walked away from the table,” continued McGill in it’s statement on Friday morning. “In many other institutions, we’ve seen encampment leaders work with campus administration to find some common ground that represents positive change, despite disagreements. Yet, McGill’s offer, which is comparable to that made by other universities who have reached resolutions, has been rejected by the encampment on our campus.”   

Pro-Palestinian protest McGill
People gather at a pro-Palestinian protest in front of the McGill University administration building in Montreal on Thursday, June 6, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
Pro-Palestinian protest McGill
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
Pro-Palestinian protest McGill
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

-With files from The Canadian Press

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