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Police Brutality – please

Go cry wolf somewhere other than an institution of higher learning


 

A group of radicals decided to split off from a protest against a “20 per cent residence fee increase” at the University of Toronto Friday.

(The university claims the increase in question is only “closer to 10 per cent”, I’m looking into this. There will be a “Fact Check” story. I’ve fact checked, and neither side is being 100% accurate. )

RELATED CONTENT: U of T protestors occupy building, removed by police, Fact Check: U of T residence fee increase

They decided to occupy the University of Toronto’s administration building; Simcoe Hall. Officially, they claimed to be occupying the hall with a set of demands to meet with the university president related to tuition fees.

However, the people holding the sit-in were also protesting an occupation. It is unclear if it was the Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the United States forces in Iraq.

Either way, their sit-in ended when police removed them from the building. As is the case with the professional protest crowd, they had a video camera and made a recording.

Naturally, they are claiming police brutality.


However, after watching the video, all I saw was some really bad acting by the protesters.

I have to give the cameraman credit, the constant movement of the camera creates a good effect and the feeling of chaos. I’m not convinced that there was chaos when the individual taking pictures with a DSLR is able to stay on a table taking pictures without any difficulty.

Here’s the video:

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My favourite line directed at the police: “Who is going to protect us …are you going to work the extra shift my mom’s going to have to work, are you going to go to school for my friend who has to drop out? Who’s here to protect us? Where is that force that is supposedly there to ‘serve and protect’ cause no one’s FUCKING serving and protecting us today!”

The crowd follows up this with their version of amen: “Shame.”

The crowd was verbally vicious against the campus police service. I have to say I’m extremely impressed by the professional manner of the campus police. They are not a “disgrace” as the protesters wish people to believe, they are a credit to their profession and to the university.

I’m one for an intelligent protest, but this was the furthest thing from intelligent. Let’s see, what was the message? I don’t know — there were too many. What can the University of Toronto president really do about issues in Israel and Iraq?

If you want to protest, fine. If you want to do it at an institution of higher education, great — but start acting educated. (If you are not a student at the university, please feel free to go a block east and protest at Queen’s Park. Newsflash: the real decision on tuition is made there. They also have more influence in the world than all Canadian university presidents combined.)

If the cost of tuition and living in Toronto is too high, there is nothing stopping people from going to places with lower tuition and a lower cost of living. There’s nothing stopping students from finding more affordable accommodation off campus.

Now, I know someone is going to say “but I wanted the highest quality [model] of education!” Okay, then be prepared to pay for that quality. There is nothing wrong with going to other universities in Canada. I went to Manitoba and have great praise for its political science department. In my case, I believe it was a better overall educational experience for me than what I would have received at the University of Toronto. You can go to any undergraduate university in Canada and get an excellent education. I understand that the “University of Toronto brand” is much stronger than many other choices, heck, I’d rather be eating dinner every night in a five-star hotel — especially when I think about my horrible cooking ability. I can’t, but you don’t see me starving.

We all have to make cost judgements in our daily lives. I wear a Timex watch. I prefer to have a “better” brand of watch, but I can’t afford it. This doesn’t stop me from telling time.

My point is that there are options for those who have the academic qualifications for university. You may not like them, but they are not unreasonable.

I live in a dump right now. I have a basement bedroom that’s smaller than the average storage locker. I have filing boxes and shelving all around me. Heck, I can’t even have visitors at my place — there is only enough room for me in my bedroom. Am I complaining? Hell yeah — I’d rather be living in the penthouse of a Trump tower. Is it stopping me from getting an education? No. Tuition sucks. Is it stopping me from getting an education? No.

Guess what, there is no money tree.

If the problem is a lack of accessibility because of what you see as “high tuition” (I figure that by its nature, tuition is too high — so is the cost of everything else), then the solution is more bursaries and other forms of support for those who cannot get enough aid right now. The solution is not cutting tuition for everyone including the upper-class.

There is only so much money at an university. While I agree that university priorities on how to spend that money are misguided in some cases. (Wait until the end of March when we get to see how much overpaid university executive heads and senior administrators are making.) I would not agree with universities taking more out of classrooms to subsidize residences. In effect, that is what these students are asking for.

There are housing solutions that are affordable out there. They may suck, but as long as they meet code, they are a reasonable option. Yes, living on campus is better than living 30 minutes off campus. It does not stop one from getting an education. Residence is not a right.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union is supporting the radicals by organizing an “Emergency Rally for Students Rights” Tuesday. If this is not a waste of student money, I don’t know what is. The UTSU doesn’t seem to get that these kinds of actions do not achieve anything and they merely discredit themselves. The more that students’ unions discredit themselves, the more likely that students will see a decrease in their overall tuition fees — by way of the end of mandatory student union fees. One only has to look to Australia to see what happens when students’ unions become so unpopular that the government is able to act to end their fee collection.

(For the record, I will be at Queen’s Park covering the provincial budget at the time of the protest.)

The UTSU may want to take a hint from the New College Student Council. The original protest Thursday was in their name. They welcomed the support as they try to stop the residence fee increase. Once the elements who decided to protest a bunch of other grievances occupied Simcoe Hall, they set out a news release disavowing these radicals. The Student Council has been attacked publicly for doing so. They are a credit to student leadership. Leadership is easy when you are screaming at a microphone against “the man.” The NCSC has displayed true leadership in standing up against their “peers” to say, “not in our name.”

—–

Lastly, I wish to address the attacks against Allison Martell, the reporter for the University of Toronto student newspaper The Varsity who covered the story.

Ms. Martell wrote what was said. The “protestors” are attacking her in The Varsity comment threads. One of their main complaints is that she did not say what they wanted to be said. Or that she is attacking her fellow students and that as a student journalist, students should come before journalism. Sorry guys, Martell did her job correctly. If you do not like what is written by the paper, maybe you should think about why it is written. It’s written because that is what happened and that is what was said. If you do not want it written don’t do it. It is not our job to deliver your message — it is your job to deliver it and our job to reporter it as journalists.

Martell did her job correctly. Sometimes it is easier to write against “the man,” he tends to not get too upset and he doesn’t attack you for it. It is when we write the truth about radical elements like some of these protesters that one gets lots of nasty emails.

Coverage elsewhere:

BlogTO
Torontoist


 

Police Brutality – please

  1. What is important here isn’t necessarily police brutality, (not that this did not happen, but the video posted can be seen as not reflecting that assertion), but the lengths the administration has gone in ignoring its own students. With simple demands to speak to the president, students were forcefully and violently removed, when such an altercation could have easily been avoided if the administration has been willing to speak to its own students.

    “The UTSU doesn’t seem to get that these kinds of actions do not achieve anything and they merely discredit themselves.”

    You have the understand though, that our student unions, including UTSU and ASSU, have time and time again attempted to start dialogue and to influence policies through traditional means (ie. lobbying) and were ignored. It was only because of this that students decided to escalate action. And to say that these kinds of actions do not achieve anything is to be ignorant of the history of student activism here on our campus. The push for the University to divest from South Africa was the result of direct action, disrupting governing council meetings etc. Similar actions were done in order to make Robarts library accessible to undergraduates and Hart House open to women. Those who partook in these actions were told the exact same things, “its too radical”, “you should use other means”, and yet when we look back with hindsight it was clear that these actions were needed.

    “What can the University of Toronto President really do about issues in Israel and Iraq?”

    For a start it could stop investing $2m in military contractors like Lockheed-Martin.

    ——–

    Criticism and suggestions on how student action can be more effective is always welcome, but please do not misconstrue the efforts of students to bring positive change to this world.

    Thanks

  2. A note of clarificaton: While at least one representative of the UTSU was involved in the protest, the protest was not sanctioned by either the Executive Committee or the Board of Directors. In fact, up to now, neither the Executive nor the Board have had the opportunity to meet for the purpose of discussing this event. It came as a surprise to many of us — executive and staff members like and, no doubt, Board members, too. Therefore, Joey, I would ask that you remove references to, and comments about, “UTSU” because they are inaccurate.

  3. Rick,

    I stand by my statement. The UTSU was sending out new releases in support of this group. The UTSU sent out the following release after the events of Thursday: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/March2008/22/c6443.html

    When the UTSU puts out news releases in support of something, that is sanctioning it. The statements are accurate based upon the actions of the UTSU in paying to send out news releases.

    When the UTSU decides to make a statement with the same courage as the New College Student Council, then I may add a statement.

    Until then, what is above is completely accurate. If the UTSU wishes to clarify and disavow the actions of whomever is spending student money to send out releases in the name of the UTSU, I look forward to seeing the release on the Newswire here: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/orgDisplay.cgi?okey=46989

  4. Excellent article. I love the Timex watch analogy.

    By attacking the administration of U of T for the proposed residence fee hike, these student radicals are attacking the very capitalist institution itself. Just because you vote against the fee hikes and don’t want to see fees rise doesn’t mean you will get your way. When more money is needed, government raises taxes. When the University needs more money, they will do the same. That’s how it works here in Canada, and that’s how it works at U of T. If students don’t want to pay more for education, residence, or whatever, go protest at Queen’s Park; the people who actually make educational budget decisions.

    RESIDENCE IS NOT A RIGHT! You can get a room within a 10 minute walk from campus for $500 a month. Then you can make your own food, clean your own apartment, and stop being a spoiled brat.

    It’s a shame that a few socialist, left-wing extremists are giving the vast majority of U of T students a bad name. If you want to see change in “the system,” then take positive, constructive action WITH the system to make those changes. Don’t attack the people doing their jobs to best accommodate the majority of students. You don’t want to pay more for residence? Find somewhere else or someone else who will pay for your residence (i.e. the provincial government, charitable organization). Or better yet, get a f*cking job instead of wasting your time bitching about how screwed up the “system” is!

  5. “By attacking the administration of U of T for the proposed residence fee hike, these student radicals are attacking the very capitalist institution itself. Just because you vote against the fee hikes and don’t want to see fees rise doesn’t mean you will get your way. When more money is needed, government raises taxes. When the University needs more money, they will do the same.”

    Daniel: Isn’t forcing people to pay taxes to subsidize anyone’s education already “an attack on the very capitalist institution itself”? I don’t think you need student radicals for that…

  6. Joey,

    A statement from UTSU is indeed forthcoming. Take it from me, as UTSU’s General Manager — i.e., chief administrator — that neither the UTSU Executive nor Board authorized/approved/endorsed the protest. Nor was there proper authorization to issue the release for which you have provided a link. That statement was released by a single executive member of UTSU, acting unilaterally, and in violation of UTSU protocol stipulating that the President either serves as the spokesperson OR delegates such authority on an as needed basis. If you want confirmation of these facts, then you may e-mail the UTSU President at: president@utsu.ca

    Also see: http://www.utsu.ca/?section_id=1&content_id=434

    I would not make this up or post it publicly, in writing, if it was not true.

    Rick Telfer
    UTSU General Manager

  7. Wow, that video was hillarious, in a pathetic sort of way. It looked to me like the students really wanted to be beat up so they could feel like real protestors or something…and the poor policemen looked so confused! The only brutality was done to my eardrums with that unnecessary screaming. Really, if those students had ever been in real danger of actually getting beat up, they’d be running for their lives instead of comfortably standing around with all the time in the world to shout “Shame on you!” I bet they’ll look back in 20 years and cringe at the memory–at least, I hope they’ll be grown up enough by then.

  8. Ah, Rick, still playing the propagandist as always. No matter what formalities may or may not have taken place, it is common knowledge that UTSU, ASSU, CFS, et. al. were behind this. Sort of the way that America fights proxy wars all over the world and officially denies involvement.

    It is worth noting that the ASSU president got stomped in his bid for re-election. SFU is out. Kwantlen is next. The chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak.

    p.s. Still messing with SFBA?

  9. Hi all,

    I am writing this message to inform you that the admin. has decided to break the commitment it made students. Despite twice confirming that if we collected 500 signatures they would halt the unnecessary expansion, they are now choosing to ignore this promise. To add insult to injury, they went ahead with the expansion without even telling us!

    Please see below for the message we sent to the administration on Thursday. We have yet to hear anything back from the administration other that they are working on a “formal response”. This confirms that they have broken their commitment.

    Unfortunately this sort of behaviour is what we have come to expect from the university administration. This further underscores the need for real student-run spaces on campus and meaningful decision-making processes in which students are fully involved from the beginning of any process and have parity in representation.

    If you would like to voice your dissatisfaction with this decision and continued support for more student-run spaces and healthy, diverse, and affordable food options, we encourage you to contact the following people:

    Meric Gertler, Dean Faculty of Arts and Science (meric.gertler@utoronto.ca)
    Anne MacDonald, Director of Ancillary Services (anne.macdonald@utoronto.ca)
    CC: ASSU (students.assu@utoronto.ca)

    Much respect to all those who have gotten involved in the campaign so far! The struggle continues…

    ****

    Hello Anne and Dean Gertler,

    After we had raised concerns about the lack of student consultation with respect to the Second Cup expansion at the expense of student outreach space in the Sid Smith lobby, Dean Sinervo made a special point of giving us a heads-up about the proposed Tim Horton’s expansion and asking for our feedback.

    In our meeting with Donna Baba (FAS Office of Planning & Information Technology) on Feb. 19 we were told that the proposed Tim Horton’s expansion in the Sid Smith caf at the expense of already limited student space would be halted if we showed that there was significant opposition, namely if we collected 500 signatures in a petition. This was confirmed in our meeting with Anne MacDonald (Ancillary Services) on Feb. 26.

    Only after we had ran an incredibly successful and high-profile campaign, collecting well over 500 signatures, were we informed by Anne MacDonald on Mar. 11 of any concerns. She stated that she had noticed some “factual errors” in our petition, although she noted that she should have made this known “some time ago”. She closed by stating that Julia from FAS or herself would get back to us.

    Despite our response, including a request for an explanation of any factual inaccuracies for future reference, we have yet to hear anything. However, we maintained good faith that the administration would honour its commitment to students, especially after so many had made their concerns known – and quite clearly. Therefore, we were completely shocked to be forwaded an email notifying building occupants that the expansion was going ahead.

    Are we to understand that administration is reneging on the commitment it made to students?

    I would appreciate receiving a response as soon as possible.

    Best,

    Ryan Hayes
    President, ASSU

  10. The UTSU did endorse the RALLY outside simcoe Hall. The current president, the VP External and the VP UA attended planning meetings for the RALLY outside simcoe hall – just as NCSC did. The Exec also passed a motion of support and the current VP Internal even brought food to the rally, while the former VP Internal attended.

  11. The accused are Farrah Miranda and Liisa Schofield, campus organizers for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group; Michal Hay, former VP university affairs at UTSU; Hayes, who is president of ASSU; Edward Wong, an ASSU executive; APUS staffers Oriel Varga and Chris Ramsaroop; recent U of T graduate Noaman Ali; Farshad Azadian and Semra Eylul Sevi, members of the activist group Always Question; and students Luis Granados, Golta Shahidi, and Gabi Rodriguez. The accused also include one minor who cannot be named, and who has been additionally charged with uttering a death threat. The minor is undergoing a separate legal process at youth court.

  12. Pingback: CUPE’s sit-in at York “It wasn’t officially organized by CUPE” : Macleans OnCampus

  13. Pingback: Worth noting: charges dropped stemming from March sit-in : Macleans OnCampus

  14. Lets just say this once and for all, most if not all cops are sly bastards. they abuse their power far too much and as civillians we can do nothing about it. When is the process of becoming a police officer gonna change? it seems that these days even the dumbest individual can become a cop. good cops are out there, theres just too few of them that actually do the job well.

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