Thursday, 20 March 2008
On Thursday March 20, students of the University of Toronto staged a sit-in at Simcoe Hall. The sit-in, organized by AlwaysQuestion, began at 2pm following a rally in protest of a 20% fee increase for New College residents. Over 35 students entered the building, while many more remained outside in support.
Upon entering the building, the students voiced their demands very clearly. They demanded a meeting with the President of University of Toronto David Naylor. Secondly, they called for a complete, unequivocal revocation of the proposed 20% fee increase, on the grounds that it is absolutely unjust to force students to pay for an administration-created problem. Finally, the students demanded 15 minutes of speaking time to give a presentation at the University Affairs Board meeting on March 25 to discuss the greater issues of inaccessibility of education and social justice.
Throughout the sit-in, the students reasserted that their sit-in was to be peaceful, and that violence and vandalism were strictly prohibited. For roughly four hours, they remained in the building, constantly chanting and cheering along with the crowd outside. Despite the fact that students remained peaceful, the situation did not remain as such for much longer.
At about 6:15pm, campus police attempted to forcefully remove students who were sitting next to a doorway which had administrators on the other side. When students tried to explain their reasons for sitting near the doorway, the police refused to listen and began physically harassing the students. One student was dragged across the floor against his will, while another was pushed and pulled to the point where his shirt almost ripped in two. In addition, a female student was assaulted to the point where she was forced to run to the washroom to throw up. Other students were pushed, elbowed and even stepped on both campus police and the administrators who were crossing the hall. Luckily, to substantiate these claims, videos were made of the assault, and can be viewed here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ketNtnZQIwQ .Due to graphic images, some people may find this video hard to watch.
Eventually, when they realized that student resistance was too strong, the police gradually ended their assault, and slowly left to re-strategize. Although victorious, many students began expressing concerns of further police brutality. Furthermore, they were worried that serious injuries could be faced if the police continued to use violent force. Consequently, out of fear for their safety, the 30-odd students decided to end the sit-in at 7pm. After leaving Simcoe Hall, the students were greeted by roughly 30 supporters who maintained a small rally outside. Eventually, after a few more chants and speeches discussing the events that occurred inside concluded, the students broke off, officially ending the protest. Despite the sit-in ending without their demands being met, the students realized that another goal was accomplished; namely, that the reality of the University’s repressive nature showed itself in full force. Although the sit-in ended early, the fight has only just begun.
Courtesy of Semra Eylul Sevi, Farshad Azadian, and AlwaysQuestion