As a newly minted adult, university is an exciting place to be, with its freedoms and challenges and fascinating people. For most of us, its the place where we came into our own. My own alma mater of McGill University was all these things and more, which is why I was a little shocked to hear about riot police coming on campus, assaulting and arresting students who were protesting by occupying the Principal’s office.
A part of this wonderful democratic experience we call the Western civilization is the right to peacefully congregate and protest. And the fact that this right seems to have been violated while on the grounds of an academic institution dedicated to intellectual honesty and challenging what is known is more than a little ironic.
Movements like the Arab Spring and the more recent Occupy Wall Street (which has since then taken the rest of North America by storm, including my fair city) has made reflect a lot about engagement and the right to protest. Even my birthplace of Kuwait has not been immune, with protesters storming the parliament building demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister (a member of the ruling family)- an action that has been hitherto unheard of. I think that unhappiness with the status quo (be it higher tuition, corporate greed or an autocratic regime) requires people to express their dissatisfaction in a way that promotes constructive dialogue.
I think the student body (and staff) at McGill had the right response. On Monday, many from the wider McGill community (undergrads, staff, grads, profs, etc) gathered together under the umbrella “We are All McGill” to protest the presence of riot police on campus. With a schedule and everything! By gathering people together to protest the treatment of students by the riot police who stormed campus (not sure where McGill Security was in all of this), I think this community showed that they are not going to shy away from asking the tough questions and demanding answers. For when we lose the ability to ask our questions, I think we take a huge step back in our collective human progress.
Disclaimer: While most of what I write is based off of other accounts (ie. the news), I have used first and second hand accounts on the McGill protests from people who are still a part of that community. Any bias is on my part and not theirs.