Police methods need inquiry

More than 100 riot police forcefully dispersed a student protest at McGill University on Nov. 10.

A university campus is a place where peaceful protests should happen without consequence, and the police intervention at McGill was inappropriate and only escalated the situation.

The McGill Daily reported that students staged a sit-in on the fifth floor of the James Administration building in protest of the Quebec provincial government’s proposed tuition hikes.

It would increase Quebec’s rate by $325 per year over a five-year period. This would result in an average annual price tag of $3,793 for tuition in 2017. While Quebec would still have the cheapest tuition compared to any other province, students have every right to protest against increases.

After reported violence against the demonstrators on Nov. 10, a group of more than 200 students formed a human chain outside the building.

Clashes with bicycle-mounted police led to the intervention of about 40 riot police who used pepper spray to push students back. Additional police reinforcements arrived soon after, the Daily reported.

There were various reports of the police using excessive violence. Even an associate professor, who stopped to observe the events, reported that he was clubbed in the ribs, knocked over and pepper sprayed as he tried to stand back up.

Those staging the sit-in were threatened with charges and non-academic probation for their protest. After negotiations with administrators, there were no arrests, charges or disciplinary action taken.

The fact that punitive action was even proposed in the first place is utterly ridiculous. Students have the right to protest and shouldn’t have faced threats for voicing dissent.

Introducing riot police into a peaceful protest was an inappropriate decision, and only stood to escalate the situation.

Riot police are a serious and frightening force, and their presence is likely to set a peaceful group on edge. As a step forward, an investigation was launched by McGill’s administration to look at the Nov. 10 protest and ensuing violence.

It needs to determine whether or not the riot police’s use of force, tear gas and pepper spray were at all justified.

While the state has a monopoly of the legitimate use of force, any police intervention needs to be closely monitored. Discarding public peace and clubbing bystanders isn’t right.

The onus should be on the law enforcement to prove they weren’t out of line, and there needs to be consequences for those who overstepped.

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