Buildings evacuated due to letter threatening Muslim students at Concordia
Concordia University has taken a number of security measures after a letter was sent to the Concordia radio station CJLO and Muslim Student Association (MSA), among other groups, threatening to plant a bomb in the EV and Hall buildings of Concordia’s downtown campus on March 1.
The measures include an evacuation of the threatened buildings, shutting down the Concordia tunnel system, and cancelling classes and academic activities in the GM building. The JMSB building and the Webster library are still open for student use.
The letter, which was sent by the “Concordia chapter” of the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada (C4) claimed that, “between March 1st at noon and March 3rd at 2 pm, [they] will DETONATE once per day small artisanal amateur explosive devices that [they] planted on two floors of the Hall bldg and one floor of the EV bldg”.
The group claimed that this decision was prompted by the fact “Donald Trump is now in office south of our border” and that they would not tolerate the “behavior” of Muslim students. The group claims the proposed violence will continue until Concordia halts “religious activities of all kinds” on campus—but later says their intention is for the university to halt Muslim religious activity specifically. The group claims the bombs are not “meant to kill anybody,” but are intended to cause injury to Muslim students, and “some non-Moslems may be collateral damage.”
The timing of the bombs correlate with Concordia’s Islamic Awareness Week, where, according to the organization’s website, the MSA was planning on “[sparing] no expense” to “clear up any misconceptions about Islam” with a number of displays and workshops in the 7th floor lounge of the Hall Building, an area often used for worship and religious activities.
According to Rami Yahia, Internal Affairs Coordinator of the CSU, the MSA and CSU are in contact about new security measures going forward to help the MSA. The CSU stands in solidarity with Muslim students and all victims of Islamophobia, said Yahia.
Upon receiving the letter at approximately 9:46 a.m. on Wednesday, the CJLO news editor and managing editor reported it to the police.
For hours, campus activity carried on as usual. Students were not publicly informed of the threat, and all floors and buildings remained open. However, numerous security guards made rounds through the Hall Building, checking garbage cans and taking note of possible suspicious activity.
At approximately 11:30 a.m., an alarm went off throughout the building, and an overhead voice warned students to promptly leave and “get away from the building.”
Despite this, the initial response from students in the Hall Building’s 7th floor lounge was far from panic—it took a few minutes for many students to respond, and pockets of students remained in the building, talking amongst themselves. Even the Green Beat Cafe continued to serve customers.
The casual response was likely due to the fact it had not been publicly announced that the nature of the evacuation was a bomb threat. Jonathon Clarke was one of many students who remained unworried by the initial alarms.
“Usually, in evacuations, there’s a continuous beeping,” Clarke said. “I’m honestly more worried about the sound system, the response to future emergency situations.”
Eventually, even the most reluctant students were forced to evacuate, and the Hall and EV buildings, as well as the downtown campus’ tunnel system, was shut down to everyone except security and police.
The Guy-Concordia metro station was briefly shut down, with metro cars not stopping at the station. Once it resumed to regular service, the indoor entrance from the university remained inaccessible.
“I don’t know what happened,” said student Tom DaMagnez, who was in the Hall Building to hand in a midterm assignment. “I went in and immediately people told me I had to leave. I thought it was a fire.”
Concordia officials have claimed that the evacuated buildings and classes may resume at 6 p.m., but this is subject to change. Security guards are currently monitoring the evacuated spaces, and students are warned to take caution and stay informed by checking the Concordia website for updated information.
With files from Gregory Todaro