The Canadian Press and CBC News recently reported disruptions at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). A group of law students at UQAM obtained a court injunction allowing them to return to class. These students did not support the protest and merely wanted to get back to their everyday lives after months of disruption. And, while sitting in class, a group of organized protesters broke in, many of them with their faces covered, screaming, grabbing and forcing female students out of the room, spray-painting the walls,and yelling “scab” at the students, a pejorative term for those who break ranks with strikers.The professors eventually fled, forcing classes to be cancelled.
A similar situation occurred on Tuesday at College Lionel-Groulx. Another group of students had obtained an injunction to return to class, and a group of protesters formed a picket line to prevent the students from entering. Riot police then used force to allow the students to return to class, but the professors were too emotional to be able to teach.
Both of these incidents are disheartening for law-abiding students. Those who wish to return to class must now fear for their safety. Some students who were interviewed in the UQAM classroom certainly were. And others interviewed who are returning to class fear to provide their name lest they be retaliated against by the protesters. For example, the Montreal Gazette reports that a student from LaSalle College, where an injunction re-opened the school and some students were returning to class, feared to provide her name.
Meanwhile, the protesters enjoy anonymity behind their masks. They realize that they are committing crimes, yet they are too cowardly to reveal their faces for fear of punishment.
The sophistication of the agitators certainly leads to the general sense of fear. The UQAM protesters came in a group of around 100, armed with class lists and leaders who directed groups to their targets. The group is almost like a secret police force, effectively enforcing its own vision of law and order upon students and professors who had a legitimate and legal right to be there.
What will the next stage be? Organized attacks on students and professors who return to class? How long will this chaos and lawlessness be allowed to continue?
Pierre Trudeau once said that “I think the society must take every means at its disposal to defend itself against the emergence of a parallel power which defies the elected power in this country and I think that goes to any distance.” Protesters at UQAM were chanting “Who owns UQAM? We own UQAM!” And indeed, at the moment, it seems that the protesters are correct. They were able to cancel classes, harass students, and make both professors and students fear for their safety.
There is something wrong when students fear to speak out against the violent mob or to publish their names for fear of retaliation. There is something wrong when students are attacked simply for going to class. A parallel power is beginning to emerge which not only defies the elected power, but poses a threat to students and citizens. It is time to end the brutality of the mob. It is time for the government and the police to take a principled stand on this issue and crack down on the terrorism occurring in Quebec.