All Posts Tagged With: "protest"
Alcohol Studies, the Sandy Five, & a riot over Obama
1. A protest by disgruntled Republican students at the University of Mississippi following President Barack Obama’s reelection on Tuesday wasn’t a riot, according to the school’s chancellor. But it sure looked like one. There were racist epithets and Obama signs lit on fire as hundreds gathered on campus, reports ClarionLedger.com.
2. I regret to inform you that the University of Calgary is not offering a course called Alcohol Studies with samplings in class, as The Gauntlet student newspaper had reported in a humour piece, and which I pointed to in an earlier post as fact. (Mea culpa.) Too bad. It sounded fun.
3. The more than 110 deaths in the United States and the tens of billions in property damage weren’t the only consequences of Superstorm Sandy. New Yorkers say that after a week of eating processed foods while the power was out, they have trouble buttoning their jeans. The New York Times is calling the five pounds of weight gain the “Sandy Five.” Our thoughts are with them.
Emmett Macfarlane on the sorry state of policy debate
Reasoned debate is off the table. The student protesters and the Charest government are sharply at odds – in fact, they despise each other – but they’ve collaborated in one respect: each side has acted to ensure that rather than a robust public discussion about how to fund the province’s universities we get an ugly, protracted battle about the right to protest.
Why has the situation deteriorated so miserably? There is no shortage of finger-pointing on either side.
From the government’s perspective, too many protesters engaged in unacceptable tactics, including blocking non-protesting students from attending classes, vandalism, intimidation and violence. Some critics assert that the peaceful majority failed to condemn, in strong enough words, the hooliganism of those in their midst. Then, last week, classes on one campus were literally invaded, in defiance of court injunctions.
You’re angry. We get it. Now offer some constructive ideas.
A group of students staged another pedantic tuition protest last week at the office of Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Training Colleges and Universities.
The daylong “occupation,” attended by executives from Canadian Federation of Students locals, was to protest the five per cent tuition increase expected in the fall. Armed with recycled chants and glossy placards, the group of about 20 people shut down operations for the day.
To those students, I say “well done.” Yes, if your aim was to give the minister a day out of the office, or if you sought to expedite public exhaustion with student foot-stomping, you likely succeeded. I just hope you weren’t pining for actual change to Ontario’s tuition structure.
Five-day protest over student fees for radio station, QPIRG
A five-day occupation of the James Administration Building at McGill ended Sunday when city police gave the remaining nine protesters five minutes to collect their belongings before they were read an eviction notice and then booted from campus.
Then, the university released a new protocol for “demonstrations, protests and occupations.”
In a release, Provost Anthony Masi noted that McGill is already “embarking on a comprehensive consultation process and dialogue into the ways in which freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly can be protected as appropriate means of protest and dissent.”
Protests underway from coast to coast
Today, students from Memorial University of Newfoundland to the University of British Columbia are participating in the National Day of Action organized by the Canadian Federation of Students.
Through marches and on social media, they’re promoting the idea that Education is a Right.
Their explicit demands are for lower tuition fees, less student debt and more public funding.
The CFS says that the average student with debt owes $25,000 by graduation and that public funding has dropped from 81 per cent of operating costs of universities 20 years ago to 57 per cent today—all while tuition has risen from 14 per cent of operating funding to more than 35 per cent.
In other words, students are paying more of their own costs for university than ever before, which makes it difficult for low and middle-income students to get through school and then pay off debts.
Peggy Nash, a candidate for the New Democratic Party’s leadership has already tweeted in solidarity and provided a link to her Plan to make Post-Secondary Education Accessible.
In Newfoundland, which already has among the lowest tuition anywhere, conservative Premier Kathy Dunderdale attended a National Day of Action event this morning and said that, during her lifetime, she’d like to see students’ first degrees paid for by the province, reports VOCM radio.
Protesting prof says she will remain objective
Students at Columbia University in New York are being offered a course that requires most of those taking part to work with the Occupy Movement.
Anthropologist Hannah Appel, who supports the movement, is teaching “Occupy the Field: Global Finance, Inequality, Social Movement.”
Appel is described on Columbia’s website as a post-doc “with research interests in the daily life of capitalism and the private sector.”
She told the New York Post that, ”Inevitably, my experience will color the way I teach, but I feel equipped to teach [the course] objectively.”
Unlike Canada’s Occupy movement, which has moved out of city parks, New York’s occupiers have continued to gather publicly. In fact, 68 protesters were arrested at or near Zuccotti Park on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment on New Year’s Eve.
Video goes viral
The police chief and two officers at the University of California are on leave after a video emerged online that shows riot police pepper spraying peacefully-seated protesters on Friday.
Police had been ordered to clear the tents of Occupy Wall Street protesters who had built an encampment on campus the night before. The university had given occupiers letters of eviction the following day. Eleven students were injured by the pepper spray and two went to hospital for chemical burns. Ten protesters were arrested.
“Yesterday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud; indeed the events of the day need to guide us forward as we try to make our campus a better place of inquiry, debate, and even dissent,” Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi wrote in a statement online. She has announced a task-force to look into the incident.
As some protesters pack up, others discuss what to do next
Around 10 a.m. this morning, the City of Toronto posted eviction notices on the benches and fountains in St. James Park telling Occupy Toronto protesters to “remove your tents, structures, equipment and personal belongings” between 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. It also said: “the City can no longer sanction the appropriation of St. James Park by a relatively small group of people to the exclusion of all others wishing to use the park and to the detriment of those in the vicinity.”
The park has been occupied by members of the anti-greed Occupy Wall Street movement for past 31 days. Protesters were evicted and arrested last night at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City, although a court order has allowed them back into Zuccotti Park today.
The scene in St. James Park this afternoon was more serene. Under bright sunshine, a handful of protesters chatted about what to do next, trading bets about the likelihood of riot police with tear gas tearing down their encampment at midnight. One man, who gave his name as Bertrand, packed up his tent, adding “it was a gift.” An advertising student from Humber College packed up too.
Others assembled at a microphone in front of St. James Cathedral to discuss what they might do next. The small crowd was doubled in size by journalists, local residents and onlookers in business attire. Meanwhile, an old lady sped through the centre of the park on her motor-scooter, a man jogged through in shorts, and children played in the mud where the grass was killed by tents.
Near the entrance to the park, a young man stood holding a poster of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, shouting out “this is the only permit we need!” A passerby called him a “loser.”
Zombies protest 17 per cent U-Pass increase
Zombies welcomed public transit users at Carleton University’s main bus stop on Halloween morning. The students in costume were protesting what they called “the death of affordable and accessible transit,” and were collecting signatures from supporters to send to city council.
The protest was a response to the local transit authority, OC Transpo, which announced that Ottawa university students will pay $180 per semester for their universal transit passes (U-Passes) next year. That’s a 17 per cent hike from the $145 they paid this year. According to the Carleton Undergraduate Students’ Association, the new price—$360 a year for most students—means Ottawa and Carleton will have Canada’s most expensive student transit passes.
In contrast, consider that students at Dalhousie University in Halifax pay only $69 per semester.
No snacks? No professor.
A professor at Sacramento State University in California walked out of his first-year psychology class Thursday because his students didn’t bring any snacks, reports the Sacramento Bee.
Some students were upset about missing their last lab before their midterm exam and complained.
But Prof. George Parrott said students were warned in the course handout that “Not having a snack = no Dr. Parrott or TAs. Now you are responsible for your own lab assignment.”
Parott told The Bee that the snack obligation is his way of encouraging students to work collectively, because they must collaborate on what to bring.
“Having these goodies in the class breaks down some of the formality and some of the rigidity in the class,” he added. Parrot, who is semi-retired, said he has required snacks in class for 39 years.
Nothing to gain
University students in Quebec continued their fight against annual $325 tuition increases on Nov. 10, protesting in large numbers by skipping classes. Classes were even cancelled at Dawson College and students marched in the streets of Montreal.
It was well organized and peaceful. To get a sense of that, consider that marshals in fluorescent vests helped defuse the tense moments between protesters and police outside Charest’s Montreal office where things might have become violent. Although the sight of riot police on campus is always disturbing, there was only a small cadre of roughly 100 students outside the McGill Administration building when police moved in.
But as big and peaceful as the demonstration was, will it change anything?
Although the 2005 student strike ended with the government giving in to some student demands, Thursday’s much shorter “strike” takes place in a much less friendly political climate and a much more uncertain economy. Even as students were marching in Montreal, education minister Line Beauchamp stood up in the National Assembly to reiterate that students must pay “their fair share.”
It’s easy for her to have such bravado. Premier Jean Charest faces no threats on the left who might gain from angry student voters. The Parti Québécois, the only other party to have formed government in this province since the 1970s, is tearing itself apart.
At the moment, Charest’s biggest political threat comes from the right. François Legault, a former PQ cabinet minister, and his centre-right Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec (CAQ) are leading in recent polls. The Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), a right-wing party with four seats in the National Assembly, is entering into formal negotiations with the CAQ concerning a potential merger.
Legault is on the record saying that students in programs which lead to higher paying jobs should pay more tuition. Considering that kind of thinking, it’s safe to bet that students wouldn’t find a CAQ government any more supportive of their demands.
Tuition fees rising $325 per year
Unlike in London, U.K., where a planned protest fizzled earlier this week, Quebec students skipped classes en masse Thursday to demonstrate against tuition fee hikes. Some estimate tens of thousands rallied province-wide.* Tens of thousands marched in Montreal alone. The protests were peaceful.
The students are opposed to tuition fee hikes of $325 per year for five years, which will lead to tuition bills of $3,793 by 2017. Quebec students currently pay $2,415—less than half the average in Canada, which is $5,138. Still, they worry about the debt that higher tuition fees will bring.
But Premier Jean Charest is unlikely to back down. His decision in March to raise tuition is supported by university administrators, as they will get $850 million more collectively to operate schools each year after 2017, according to CTV News. The Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities argues that quality is at risk without more money injected the system. Considering that Quebec’s gross provincial debt was $173-billion at budget time in March, the government is unable to provide more cash. As in most provinces, the majority of increases in revenue will be eaten up by growing health care costs.
*It was reported by many news agencies, including us, that 200,000 students protested. In fact, the Quebec Federation of University Students reports that the figure was closer to 20,000. We regret the error.
Tuition rally fizzles
Despite having 4,000 police ready in case the protest got out of hand, Scotland Yard says that only about 2,500 protesters showed up for a mass rally against high tuition fees in London, U.K. Organizers, on the other hand, told Sky News that 10,000 showed up, though they hoped more would have joined. After all, more than 50,000 marched with the same demands in the summer, during which protesters smashed the windows of the Conservative party’s headquarters.
At today’s protest, students carried placards denouncing the government’s policy that allowed tuition fees to rise to $14,500 at many schools. Some showed their middle finger as they passed the London Stock Exchange. Twenty were arrested by 4 p.m. local time, police told The Telegraph.
Police had warned on Monday that they would use rubber bullets and batons if necessary to quell violent protesters. Twitter users blamed police intimidation for the lower-than-expected turnout.
Student was accused of misconduct related to protest
Two McGill University student leaders have been cleared of misconduct accusations related to their support of the ongoing strike at the school, says one of the two accused. Joel Pedneault, a vice-president for the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) told the Montreal Gazette that the accusations were dropped on Friday after he met with associate dean of arts André Costopoulos.
Pedneault says he wants a public apology from administrators for what he calls “harassment.”
Pedneault and colleague Micha Stettin received letters Oct. 14 suggesting they violated the Code of Student Conduct related to a demonstration held on Oct. 11 where students calling themselves the “mob squad” sat in an entrance to the university to show their support for McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) employees. Pedneault didn’t even attend the protest.
The relationship between McGill administrators, MUNACA employees and some students has been strained by the strike, with allegations of thrown objects, the arrest of a 63-year-old employee, picketing that shut down a construction site and more. To read about the acrimony, click here.
Tantrum tactics don’t lead to social change: Urback
When a toddler is exasperated, he will hurl himself on his back and kick his feet up in the air. The action rarely wins him the coveted extra cookie or forbidden toy of mystery, but incapable of more advanced reasoning techniques, the child becomes subservient to his own uncontrollable desires. Eventually, this child will learn that he might acquire an extra Oreo by sweet-talking mom or taking on additional chores. He’ll come to realize that flailing and shouting may win him a feeling of persuasiveness, even though he’s actually just hurting his cause.
Trouble is, this youngster will regress again when he hits that tumultuous stage of young adulthood. Armed with terrible rhyming couplets about capitalism and a ‘Twitter for iPhone’ app (oblivious to the irony), he’ll march with his comrades, protesting for a vague, better tomorrow free of corporate greed.
Such men and women have taken to the streets of New York over the past few weeks, ostensibly with the aim of achieving some sort of goal. I say “ostensibly,” of course, because protesters have yet to put together a coherent, unified explanation of what they hope to accomplish by taking over the Brooklyn Bridge and releasing rainbow balloons into the air. A prettier skyline, perhaps?
The protesters have said they are against corporate greed, climate change, occupation of Indigenous land (uh… perhaps ‘Occupy Wall Street’ was a naming oversight), corruption, militarism, and whatever else will fit on the press release. Might I suggest Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedies and ubiquitous displays of public affection as well?
We lucky Canucks are not immune, poised to receive our first demonstrations October 15 in Toronto and Vancouver. The “Occupy Toronto” movement is, as of yet, just as poorly focused, if not more. Spokesperson and college student Bryan Batty told the Toronto Star that we, too, have many issues that merit sitting in the street, including youth unemployment, growing debt, environmental destruction, and the increasingly illustrious issue of corporate greed. The Vancouver protest will happen at the Vancouver Art Gallery for some reason—down with Emily Carr paintings!
The movement is unfocused, but that’s nothing new. Conflicting messages clouded the G20 protests in Toronto last summer, the unfortunate havoc that greeted the end of Vancouver’s NHL season this year, and the recent rioting in Britain where protesters were divided in their quests for social change and free sneakers. These sorts of demonstrations, void of any remnant of pragmatism, inevitably turn to clashes between protesters and police.
Those truly enslaved by the inequities of “corporate greed” don’t have the luxury of taking the day off work to protest, and the police, confronted with hoards of unpredictable demonstrators, usually react with an inappropriate amount of force.
So if we know it tends to end badly, if we know it’s not going to compel social and economic reform, why do so many people paint posters and hit the streets anyway?
Well, for the same reason that rogue senate page Brigette DePape donned a “Stop Harper” sign in the House of Commons last June, and why our lustful little toddlers kick their feet up in the air when they want a cookie. Because it makes us feel good. It makes us feel as though we’re making a difference. Brigette wasn’t going to “stop Harper” with her sign, and Occupy Toronto protesters aren’t going to stop corporate greed with their catchy rhymes. But occupying a street, or throwing a temper tantrum for a cookie, is a much more cathartic, immediately gratifying expression of discontent than working to reform legislation, which is what actually leads to change in democracies.
Canadians are fortunate in that they have the freedom to work within the system to compel social and economic reform—however slowly. Yet we so often opt to stage demonstrations in the name of “awareness,” and revert back to our lives when our voices become hoarse. Children eventually learn the key to cookie autonomy is to change the wafer power dynamic through negotiation or economic independence. If they can retire their temper tactics, we youth may find a better way too.
Don’t blame the U.K. riots on unemployment or tuition costs
Eyes were on the Arab world earlier this year as waves of demonstrations catalyzed national revolutions. Civilians took to the street in revolt of brutal dictatorships, corrupt governments and the general lack of basic human rights. As protesters in the Middle East fought with their lives to achieve a better standard of living, there were those of us in the West—equipped with makeshift stop signs and a total lack of perspective—who dreamed that we would see our own Arab Spring. The way to overthrow a democratically elected government is civil disobedience, you see, and rogue acts the key to beginning the process.
And it seems those rogue acts are indeed underway, though not in Canada as a wistful Brigette DePape had once hoped. Rather, several cities in the UK have been set ablaze over the past several days as rioting has spread across England.
But in England, there’s no united cause or discernible reason. That doesn’t mean that explanations haven’t been offered. It started with protests in Tottenham after a man was killed by police nearly one week ago. But the violence has continued to spread.
While few pundits condone the acts of violence, many have offered their own socio-economic explanations. Guardian journalist Stafford Scott says that the behaviour of the rioters should come as no surprise, since restlessness among British youth, especially in impoverished areas, has been provoked by widespread institutional racism, bitter job prospects, the rising cost of tuition and other barriers to education. Scott explains the destruction of property as simply symptomatic of the nihilism among British youth. “On Saturday, instead of imploding and turning inward and violent among themselves,” Scott writes, “the youths exploded.”
Another Guardian writer, Nina Power, is of a similar mind, suggesting that those condemning the acts of violence ought to look at the “bigger picture” of a country with a struggling economy, poor social mobility, and ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
The trouble is, this “bigger picture” is not on the minds of those committing the crimes. Rioters interviewed by the BBC have blamed everything and everyone from the police, to the government, “rich people,” and conservatives, and many—by their own admission—blame no one at all. There are videos of looters grabbing handfuls of clothes and shoes from broken windows, hooded men and women running from shops carrying away flat screen TVs, and one particularly abhorrent capture of a mob stealing a Sony PSP from an injured student on the street. There’s nothing political about stealing a Playstation from a bleeding man.
While there may be very real causes for social unrest in Britain, this recent destruction is not about politics, tuition or unemployment. Protesters who loathe corporatism and big business don’t torch mom-and-pop shops in their local neighbourhoods, nor do they claim to be “getting their taxes back” as they loot from local shops.
And many of the rioters, in fact, are not disadvantaged youth, but 30-something teachers, youth workers, and graphic designers. To ponder socio-economic excuses for these crimes is to give those who have succumbed to mob mentality a political agenda to fall back on. This civil disobedience is not about changing policy. It’s about a moral breakdown — and free sneakers.
“If you do nothing illegal, we won’t bother you,” say police.
A Quebec student lobby group claims that a Montreal police squad, which monitors anarchists and “marginal political groups,” has violated the province’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Now, they’re going to file a human rights complaint.
Four members of L’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, including three of the group’s executives, were arrested in connection with several protests in late March against higher tuition fees. Some of those protests turned violent.
The group claims that those arrested were targeted because of their political views. ”There is no doubt about the political nature of these arrests,” ASSÉ spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said in a press release. “This is clearly an attempt by the [Montreal police] to decapitate the Quebec student movement on the eve of one of its historical struggles.”
Montreal police deny that the arrests were politically motivated. ”When you occupy an office and someone gets a broken wrist and there’s a broken window, that’s not a peaceful demonstration,” spokesperson Ian Lafrenière told the Montreal Gazette. “I agree that people should be allowed to demonstrate. If you do nothing illegal, we won’t bother you.”
The human rights complaint focuses on the police’s Guet des activites des mouvements marginaux et anarchistes (surveillance of the activities of marginal movements and anarchists) or GAMMA squad, which ASSÉ claims conducted the arrests. Police said GAMMA did not make the arrests in question and that the squad was formed as a reaction to increasing levels of violence at protests.
Another activist group, the Coalition Against Repression and Police Brutality, has also filed a complaint accusing the squad of discriminating against people based on their political views.
ASSÉ says it represents more than 40,000 students across Quebec.
After human rights complaint, profs don’t want to supervise him
A graduate student at the University of Alberta is going to desperate measures in a bid to find a new graduate supervisor.
Salah Rahmani, who was asked to leave the Department of Cell Biology — which he filed a human rights complaint against earlier this year — is on a hunger strike because he says no one in his new department, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, is willing to supervise him.
“[Professors] are not co-operating. Some of them told me, ‘we don’t have space,’ or ‘we don’t have funding’,” he told The Gateway newspaper from the tent outside the university’s student union building where he has supposedly been living food-free since June 27. He alleges that fellow students got responses from professors about potentially supervising them, while he heard nothing back from those same professors.
On a blog set up to defend Rahmani, it is written that in a meeting with administrators on May 11, 2010: “Psychologist, Dr. Lorraine Breault who was their [sic] friend told that the chair can make any decision. Salah’s understanding was that this was absolutely wrong.” That meeting was set up after he accused a professor of likening him to a dog and saying he was too old to be a student. (Those are similar allegations to those he eventually made in January, 2011 human rights complaint.)
Rene Poliquin, vice-dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, said the faculty is concerned for Rahmani’s health and they are working to find a solution to his issue.
More than 20 supporters have left comments on the Help Salah Rahmani blog.
STU profs who plan to boycott convocation should be wary of the message they are sending their students
A group of professors at St. Thomas University are protesting the decision to award an honorary degree to Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside, and some have now threatened to boycott the graduation ceremonies.
In an open letter to the Daily Gleaner, the professors at the liberal arts university objected to the decision to award the degree to a “sitting politician,” as well as because of Woodside’s “record on the environment and by his unwillingness to recognize gay and lesbian citizens.”
Back in the 1990’s, Woodside refused to declare a Gay Pride weekend in Fredericton until he was ordered to do so by the Human Rights Commission. However, since taking office again in 2004, Woodside has declared Pride Week and even participated in some of the events.
But for other professors, their decision to boycott the ceremonies has more to do with the ethics of awarding an honorary degree to a politician who is still in office. “There’s a general sense of unease about the kind of vulgarity and the crassness of that,” Ian Nicholson, an STU professor who signed the letter of objection told Global Saskatoon. “Of sorta paying up to power, of trying to buy favours from politicians by giving them one of these impressive sounding degrees.”
For these reasons, a group of STU professors may be absent at the convocation ceremonies of their students this weekend. And while I don’t agree with their position, it is understandable why they would choose to be so. The ethics of awarding an honorary degree to a sitting politician is undeniably complicated, and that decision is made even thornier when the recipient has held controversial opinions in the past, despite recent reforms.
But by boycotting the ceremonies, these professors are putting their own politics over their students. Which is fine, of course. But small liberal arts universities, unlike large, research-driven institutions, are driven by the reputation of having intimate classrooms and personal connections between students and professors. You go to the University of Toronto if you want to be lectured by a world-renowned theorist who probably doesn’t know your name, but you enroll in St. Thomas University if you want to develop a relationship with faculty and engage personally with your instructors. If these professors don’t show up to their students’ graduations, they will be inadvertently forfeiting one of the great merits of their institution.
Consulate chronicles ‘militant student group’ involvement in 2003 anti-war protests
It seems someone is paying attention to student protests after all.
In this case, that “someone” is the American consulate in Halifax, which chronicled a 2003 anti-war protest held by “militant student groups, church groups, and the self-styled ‘Halifax Peace Coalition.’” In a document released this past Thursday, the consulate describes three “major” anti-war demonstrations in March 2003. The demonstrations were described as nonviolent, though participants “engaged in strong anti-U.S. rhetoric and burned U.S. flags on several occasions.” The cable also notes demonstrators as chanting, banging drums, sounding air horns, and throwing bags of paint.
Come now, silly U.S. consulate! We all know that no student group in Atlantic Canada would ever participate in cheap stunts like that!
The cable concludes with the consulate’s acknowledgement that “militant student groups” and the “Halifax Peace Coalition” intend to demonstrate every Saturday, and that the consulate is in communication with the RCMP and Halifax police.