According to reports from both the occupiers and McGill's administration, the occupation of the James Administration building ended at 9 am this morning when the Montreal Police department forced the occupiers to leave.
The early morning eviction by the police marked the end of a five day protest by students over the administration's refusal to recognize the results of a student referendum.
“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,” said Michael Di Grappa, Vice Principal of Administration and Finances at McGill, explaining the decision to use the police to remove the demonstrators in an email to students and staff.
“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,” he continued.
Di Grappa said the police followed what he called “standard procedure” in removing the demonstrators from the building.
According to both sides, the end of the occupation was mostly peaceful, and the administration claims to have provided first aid, counseling, and food to those who took part in the occupation, though the occupiers have disputed some of the administrations claims.
“We will prepare a longer statement after we have a warm meal,” the occupiers said from their blog, “but we do want to respond quickly to DiGrappa’s [statement]; we were not offered food or counselling services. Our friends [protesting near the building] however, have arranged for both.”
McGill's Principal Heather Munroe-Blum endorsed the removal of the protesters from the administration building, but also emphasized the need for unity, discussion, and understanding in light of the protest and other recent events on campus.
“I believe that in a university community, as in all civil society, respect and tolerance go hand-in-hand with free expression. In the context of current social movements on our campus, and more broadly, there has emerged what appears to be a polarization of the way in which some people reject, or even demonize, those who hold points of view different from their own,” Munroe-Blum said in her email to all staff and students after the removal of protesters.
“Some students feel that the senior administration has not been available to listen in a meaningful and respectful way. Others feel that a small group of students and faculty have been asserting their views and right to freedom of expression over and above those of other members of the community. Fortunately, we have begun to make progress in creating new fora for exchanging views—especially difficult and divergent views...” she continued.