Unlike the picket signs and loudly-chanted slogans that accompany most protests, the majority of the dialogue on the student occupation at McGill took place online.
Under the Twitter handle “@6partylive,” the dozen or so students who occupied McGill’s James Administration building tweeted their demands to the university, updated the world on their food situation and set up interviews with major Montreal media outlets.
Clashes between those for and against the occupation were numerous on Twitter, accessible to the world via the hashtags “#6party” and “#occupymcgill.”
“I decided to use Twitter because it is a relatively safe space in which to remain anonymous,” wrote one individual who tweets under the handle of @OccupyMcGill. Going by the name “James McGill,” he composed over 500 tweets last week rebuking the occupiers and replying to those supporting the sit-in online.
“My opposition to the methods and motivations of the protesters is based firmly on principle. The group of protesters are behaving in an ineffective and extremely childish manner,” he told The Concordian last week.
Concordia undergraduate senator and Mob Squad member Gene Morrow replied to many of @OccupyMcGill’s tweets, describing the volume and frequency of @OccupyMcGill’s tweets as “just weird.”
“He was tweeting one after another by himself regardless whether or not anyone else was tweeting, just repeating the same messages over and over again,” said Morrow. @OccupyMcGill maintained, both in interview and on Twitter, that he was one person tweeting of his own volition.
Debate crossed over to Facebook in the form of an event called “The James 6th Floor occupiers do NOT represent me.” With over 2,000 people listed as “attending,” the event claimed to represent McGill’s “silent majority.”
Beni Fisch and Diego Laguna, two of the event’s creators, said in an interview that they were amazed by the response and rewarded to discover that others felt the same way they did about the occupation.
“This is not against their message, it’s against their tactics,” said Fisch, stating that the CKUT/QPIRG referendum question is not their focus. Instead, the event came as a result of their ongoing frustration with the political discourse at McGill, which he and Laguna say has been monopolized by a radical minority. According to the event’s page, the aim is to create “positive change at McGill without the use of confrontational tactics.”
“It’s not slacktivism,” said Laguna, addressing those who have criticized the Facebook event as an empty gesture. Laguna and Fisch say the group is the beginning of a much larger mobilization that plans on taking action sometime within the next week.