Students stage mock execution to protest tuition fees

Students need to get real if they want to be taken seriously

Some political savants participating in the Canadian Federation of Students’ Day of Action decided it would be a good idea to wheel a guillotine into a crowd and stage a mock execution as a way to protest tuition fees.

The demonstration—which can only be described as one of the most sensible and appropriate of its kind—was captured in a video shot by the ‘fax, a news channel run by the journalism students at University of King’s College. The clip shows members of a political street theatre troupe setting up a guillotine emblazoned with the sign, “The Cuts We’d Like To See.” One fellow proceeds to chant, “NDP, Liberal, Tory—same damn story,” while his comrades bang drums and cheer. He then flops a dummy on the guillotine—a dummy, which, I’m assuming, is supposed to be representative of some political figure—and leads the crowd in a few rounds of “They all must go! They all must go!” Yes, you’re watching a protest taking place in Canada.

The blade drops, unfortunately proving itself faulty as it fails to sever the head of its fee-happy victim. No fear—an executioner swoops in to manually break the neck and drop the head in the basket. And the crowd erupts in whoops and cheers. Beautiful, isn’t it?

The crowd assembled February 2 to protest, among other things, the rising cost of tuition and the expiration of a fee freeze on March 31. According to reports, more than one thousand students gathered from various Halifax universities to demonstrate against the rising cost of post-secondary education in Nova Scotia. The issue, of course, I can understand. How a medieval decapitation device works into the equation—well, there I’m having a bit more trouble.

For politicians to truly understand the financial pressures faced by students, there’s going to have to be some sort of dialogue. That dialogue is made immeasurably more difficult if students choose to stage these politicians’ preemptive deaths.  And then, of course, there’s that nagging issue of the gross barbarity of the scene. These are not things we do in Canada. (Sorry, am I ‘Othering’?)

If students want political leaders to take them seriously, they need to start behaving seriously.  That means no more mock executions, postcard bombardments, or other high style/low substance demonstrations. I hope not to see a public stoning, symbolic of corporate “blows” to education, at the next Student Day of Action.




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Students stage mock execution to protest tuition fees

  1. My name is Bethany Horne and I shot that video you saw on Unews.

    Your headline is wrong: the theatre group consisted of no current students. Also, you are wrong to assume the dummies represent a politician. They were to represent the parties as a whole. As theatre often does, the presentation was meant to shock and cause discussion.

    As for how students are going to be taken seriously: one way would be for them to get their facts straight and not write incendiary blog posts with no research or understanding of events.

  2. Not only did you fail to talk to anyone to find out the full story around the video (which wouldn’t have been that hard: I published the names of the artists), apparently you also failed to read the video caption. Or perhaps you chose to ignore it, because it makes your ignorant rant more persuasive?

    “”NDP, Liberal, Tory — same damn story.”

    “They all must go.”

    On the CFS Day of Action – Street theatre meet the crowd at the intersections of South Park Street and Spring Garden Road (and blocks their way north).

    Jill Ratcliffe, Noah Logan, Dave Bush and the other members of the political street theatre troupe are **former students** from Dal, NSCAD and King’s. They wheeled a guillotine down the street to show what cuts to education looked like.

    The sign above the guillotine reads “The Cuts we’d like to see,” and the guillotine fell to chop off the heads off all the political parties. The troupe says all the political parties have failed students over the years.”

  3. Don’t bother trying Bethany. The Maclean’s crowd would be screaming bloody murder if anyone tried to “suppress free speech” by having the audacity to prevent a guillotine from appearing. You can’t win.

  4. All “former students–” so, the CFS can’t find any real students to take part in their protest? CFS “lobbying” is a joke and actual students won’t participate, no wonder some schools are going over to CASA and its provincial equivalents.

  5. What blows me away is that a MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR organization protests rising tuition fees in the most asinine way possible. I’m legitimately pissed off that this is how the CFS has decided to represent me. Thank god we won a referendum so I can vote to stop supporting such silly wastes of time.
    /UVic student

  6. @David re:”So, the CFS can’t find any real students to take part in their protest?”

    I’m not going to spend my time debating the NS Student Day of Action on the Internet, especially with someone who was on the other side of the country when it took place, but don’t be ridiculous: according to the Halifax Regional Police there were somewhere between 2, 000 and 3, 000 in the streets of Halifax (from every university), 250+ at Acadia and over 100 at Université Sainte-Anne for the Day of Action.

    And Robyn, I guess you’re sticking to the old adage they taught us in Ryerson journalism, if it bleeds it leads. I have to question why you chose to focus on this part of the protest (and as someone who was there, I agree with Bethany, you got the facts wrong) and not the 2, 000+ students (the biggest student day of action, not to mention one of the biggest protests period, in NS in nearly a decade), the fact that it came the day after the tuition fee increase was announced or the face that the day was a part of a bigger campaign that has included (@Richard): campus town halls, meetings with gov and opposition, submissions to government, letters and emails to MLAs, the delivery of 4,000 petition signatures and several lead-up actions.

    Also, @Richard, the CFS-NS held the Student Day of Action does not have a multi-million dollar budget.

    Rebecca Rose

  7. First of let me start with some basic facts.
    -I was one of the participants.
    -I was never a memeber of the CFS
    -This was not a CFS action
    -I guess I was a member of CASA when I attened DAL (I am not proud of that)
    -I am a once and future student.
    -The dummies we mocked beheaded represented the major political parties not the leaders

    To be honest I am not sure why I am responding to your blog post but here it goes. We tried to show, in the most provocative way, that no matter who gets elected they will make the same choices. The political system is broken when the poor, pensioners, workers, students and marginalized communities are forced to pay for the economic crisis which the financial system caused.

    Politicians tell us times are tough and we all must tighten our belts. We were protesting that system which offloads the costs of capitalism onto the backs of ordinary people yet rewards those at the top with even more spoils.

    Our democracy is broken. There are no real choices. That is why we said that they all must go. The cuts we would like to see are the cuts we must make around the chains holding back our politcal imagination. We need to cut away old politics. This idea that somehow we must acquiesce to this economic blackmail is an absurdity worth mocking.

    I also think your idea of a reasonable appeal to politicians is laughable. Lets not protest or make noise, we should just shut-up and let the grown-ups take care of it. That isn’t democracy that is a plutocracy.

    Students and others shouldn’t aim to be taken seriously by politicians they should aim to be powerful to push for the interests of those outside of privileged circles.

    Politicians know very well the financial pressure most students are under. They also know when they cut social services, that they are harming people. The thing is they just don’t care because they can politically ignore them. There are no repercussions.

    Anyways this was a terrible blog post, from a political hack who would rather see democracy done professionally than see people taking control of their own destinies. Also what was most offensive about your article was implying that the guillotine didn’t work. I am sorry did you want us to put a real blade on there next time?

    Long live laughing and political satire.

  8. Can’t say I like CFS but CASA (and OUSA for that matter) are no better.

    Regardless of whether schools join or leave CFS, they leave CASA too, in fact CASA, according to the documents I was given by their communications coordinator show the system they have is BASED on schools leaving and coming back. sort of like an “open door” policy…but it’s still better than CFS’ “for life” policy.

  9. Dave Bush says:
    February 5, 2011 at 9:47 pm
    First of let me start with some basic facts.
    -I was one of the participants.
    -I was never a memeber of the CFS

    Good for you Dave, though since CFS is a federation of student unions, no person is a member of them.

  10. Bethany, I wouldn’t normally quote a TV show but this perfectly describes your opinion

    “when art is made only to push boundaries, it usually ends up being bad art”

    and that is entirely true here. To “shock” and “cause discussion” is one thing, to figuratively decapitate your representatives/parties is something quite different. It is offensive, not shocking. It shows unreasonability. and it is fairly extreme.

  11. Robyn, I know where you’re coming from but have to say that politicians are used to this kind of mockery. Like you said, this is Canada after all.

    Here’s what you should have written about though, which was fortunately reported by Allnovascotia.com. It is about the ironic fact that following their protest on a beautiful snowy day, our “poor” students rushed to buy their $5 coffee at Starbucks while others enjoyed a nice free afternoon at the Oasis bar on Spring Garden Road.

    Given that the forcast tuition increase represents about $160/year, I was trying to figure our how many nights at the Palace or the Dome would a student have to sacrifice to keep a balanced budget. Looking back at the days I was in school, that would have been enough for me to protest!

    Oh and did I mention the litter they left behind on the streets?

    John

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