On damaging stuff and due process

Montréal, 12 Sept 2002

School's back in at Concordia, the less-political associations are cooking up a storm at their orientation events and Chartwell's is rebuilding all the for-profit food distribution to suit their business model. Not far from the cute “terrace” outdoor temporary café on Monday the 9th, people were smashing windows and throwing furniture around. It's good to be back at Concordia.

The protest/blockade/riot was billed as an unwelcoming event for Mr. Netanyahu, the (arguably) failed prime minister of Israel that pulled the rug out from under peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, allowed (encouraged) more illegal settlements to be built, and then passed the torch onto Mr. Sharon, (arguably) a war criminal and definitely having more experience with the forcible resolution of problems than with negotiated settlements (unless you count negotiations to protect the “settler” land grabs in occupied territory with conscript lives). Mr. Netanyahu is (certainly) not a role model of mine and it's not entirely clear to me why Hillel would invite him to speak at Concordia. It is even less clear (aside from Mr, Netanyahu's schedule, which put him travelling near here on the 9th) why it would be anything like a good idea to have him speak two days from the anniversary of an event that has resulted in an increasinly hostile environment for people with darkish skin and identifiable clothes, many of whom also feel strongly about goings on between Israel and Palestine.

Nonetheless, I am hoping that the administration at Concordia decides to make it clear that freedom of speech does not include smashing stuff or blocking a distasteful speaker from talking at a bastion of varied opinion such as Concordia (or at any speaking engagement in the Free World, for that matter). Making noise, passing out literature, slowing traffic (but not bike traffic!), getting on the news: these are all legitimate to my way of seeing things. Smashing stuff, (allegedly) being abusive towards people trying to get in, stopping a speech... these are beyond the limits of civilized. Furthermore, the ex-PM of Israel then gets to hold a news conference and be the victim for the day. We all get to hear about his borderline-insane views on war with Iraq and his lambasting of our humble, politically vibrant and generally pretty good institution of higher learning. Perhaps broadcasting his ranting to a general audience will only serve to harden opinion against him, but letting him be the victim for a day was not a good idea.

Rector Lowy has a bit of experience with going after people who deface stuff at Concordia... unfortunately, he wasn't seen to follow procedure or make justice quite transparent enough with Tom and Laith, and now we are stuck with a botched expulsion that is sure to keep precious legal resources away from prosecuting murderers and rapists and clarifying the constitution for some time to come. Hence, I hope sanity will prevail and average Concordians will get some dull but democratic body which will hear the evidence and toss those caught getting physical in the demonstrations out of the university for a time. I hope they also manage to recover costs so that we don't have to cut a section of a course or delay the finishing touches at myconcordia.ca due to glazing expenses.

Not much is undisputed at Concordia, but written policy, due process and free speech shouln't be optional. Let's hope we can inject a little more of these values into the present iteration of the protest cycle.