Five students were violently beaten and arrested by police during a peaceful protest at York University, Toronto, Canada, on the day of George Bush's inauguration (20 January 2005). Formerly known as one of the most progressive, radical, free-thinking, and critical spaces for postgraduate studies in Canada, York University's administration is now actively cultivating a culture of repression, surveillance, and brute coercive force in its efforts to quash dissent.
On the day of George W. Bush's inauguration (20 January 2005), a group of activist students connected as GRAIN - Grassroots Anti-Imperialist Network - organised a peaceful demonstration on the campus of York University, Toronto, Canada. The network came together to make the corporate links (Imperial Oil and Lockheed Martin for example) between the York Administration and the Bush administration explicit. The group of several dozen undergraduate and graduate York students were effective in distributing hundreds of leaflets in addition to offering speeches in a central location, and were then to be brutally disabled by the metro Toronto police.Watch Video of Police Attacks on Students Here.
Five students (3 men and 2 women) were visciously assaulted by police : beaten with batons, fists, and feet, and were arrested. One of the students is a member of CUPE 3903, the Canadian Union of Public Employees local at York, which represents contract faculty, teaching assistants, and graduate research assistants. The accosted students were taken to a locked classroom apparently made available in advance by the York administration to the police for these purposes. As the demonstrators were being dragged through Vari Hall, a police officer was heard to be asking "What was that (class)room number again ?"
In the closed classroom, one of the arrested students was beaten so badly by police that he required hospitalisation. The four other students were held overnight at 31 Division in the Jane-Finch community, a highly racialised community bordering the York campus, and a neighborhood notorious for being one of the front-lines on which Toronto police wage a violent daily war on people of color and the poor. The arrested students were released on bail the following day. All are facing serious and fabricated charges, including assault police and attempting to disarm a police officer.
The video footage clearly puts the lie to these accounts ; the tape expressively shows students standing and then being violently thrown to the ground, and clubbed, kicked, and punched by police. The legal fees required to defend these students are expected to exceed $10, 000 (CD).
This case of police brutality on York campus is not in isolation. It is the latest, and most violent, incident in what looks to be an increasingly repressive regime of surveillance, and narrowly defined senses of "order", on a campus that has been known for its radical politics and a reputation for being among one of the top Canadian institutions for the expansion of the limits of free thought and critical analysis. The latest moves on the part of the York administration exemplify the trend toward increasing privatisation of public spaces and institutions, and offer a chilling reminder on the violently patrolled limits on free speech in a world increasingly marked by corporate interests and imperial governments under the seemly rubric "globalisation".
Over 250 faculty members at York University, and many thousands of students have vociferously expressed their utter and grave concerns over the administation's hiring of the police to determine the limits of "allowable" dissent on our campus. The week following the police brutality has been one of an emerging mass mobilisation in active and creative demands that our campus remain a public space for critical and sometimes difficult debate. As a collectively crafted faculty letter puts it : "Sometimes democracy is messy and inconvenient". There have been rallies and demonstrations by students, unions, faculty, and staff at York every day following the attacks on students and on our collective rights to a free and open space for critical thought and exchange. Over 1000 protestors gathered on the day following the violent arrests, and again on the 27th of January - and footage of the solidarity rally on the 21st is available here: http://auto_sol.tao.ca/
How you and your affiliations can work in SOLIDARITY with those of us struggling at York
In solidarity with the students whose bodies were assaulted as they were speaking out against the bloody and imperialist regime of the Bush administration, individuals, unions, university bodies, research groups, and community organisations are urged to express their dismay at the incursions on free speech and public dissent at York University in Toronto, as an incidence as part of a broader trend toward the silencing of dissent.
Please urge your affiliation to consider making a contribution to the legal defense fund in support of the students who were attacked by police.
Letters denouncing the York administration's use of brute force through the hiring of police can be written to Lorna Marsden, President, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3, or emailed (note that there is no second "e" in president). Please cc all emailed letters.
In these times solidarity is urgently required. We need your support.
Video Footage, Still Photos, News Articles, and links are available here : http://auto_sol.tao.ca/
The Struggle Continues -- and grows as allies unite, to fight, to win freedom and imagination back from the corporate and imperialist machines ! Join us !