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Police arrest 15, disperse protesters at McGill administration building Thursday

Police stand guard on the McGill University campus following a pro-Palestinian protest in Montreal, Thursday, June 6, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — Police in Montreal say 15 people have been arrested after a protest was forcefully dispersed at McGill University Thursday.

The arrests came after demonstrators occupied the main administration building on its downtown campus, which saw officers in riot gear launch chemical irritants.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been camping on McGill's lower field since late April, demanding the university pull its investments tied to Israel's military and sever relationships with Israeli academic institutions.

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill, a student group participating in the encampment, said on social media "an autonomous group of students" had occupied the James Administration Building.

About 100 protesters had gathered in front of the building, a few hundred metres from the main encampment site.

A representative of the student group says the blockade at the administration building was in response to the global call to escalate for Rafah, referring to the southern Gaza city where Israel is conducting an offensive.

Rama Al Malah, who says she wasn't part of the occupation of the administration building, said the blockade was also due to what protesters are calling the continued complicity of McGill in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

"We watched as our students (were) brutalized and arrested on the inside and students essentially refused to leave their ground," Al Malah said.

"They stayed put in front of the administrative building in support of their comrades but also in support of our demands.

"Police met this with tear gas and also by knocking people down to the ground, so physical assaults as well."

Metal fencing was erected in front of the building’s entrance, with protesters standing in front holding banners, one of which said “Genocide made by McGill.”

Two banners, one reading “You could have divested 41 days ago,” hung from a third-floor window. Shortly after the protest began, officers could be seen inside the building, and one of them removed a banner.

Police officers wearing helmets and face protection stood on either side of the building, watching over chanting protesters. Officers were also standing in front of several other entrances to the downtown campus, preventing people from entering.

About two hours after the protest started, to the right of the administration building, about 20 officers faced off with protesters, most of whom chanted together: “Shame, shame.”

Then, police started to scuffle with some in the crowd and launched chemical irritants to disperse them, sending people running, covering their mouths and eyes.

But that didn’t work, and protesters regrouped shortly after and returned to face police, chanting, “Why are you in riot gear? There is no violence here.”

Police in riot gear forcefully moved protesters from the administration building, pushing them back to the encampment on the lower field.

Following a tense confrontation of about 45 minutes, police launched a second round of chemical irritants and violently pushed protesters away to disperse them from the building using batons and shields.

Officers then formed a line, blocking access to the building, as protesters gathered farther away, by the tents that have been set up on the lower field since late April.

A woman holding a loudspeaker told the crowd of about 200, “If you’re injured go to camp, if not move to the street.”

Some protesters gathered on Sherbrooke Street despite rain.

In an update early Friday morning, the SPVM says operations ended around 10:30 Thursday night, with 13 people being arrested for breaking and entering and two other people being arrested for obstructing police work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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