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UdeM heritage building trashed
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 19 avril 2012

Just six days shy of the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedom, the Roger-Gaudry amphitheatre was stormed and vandalized by angry protesters in their second month of strikes and protests against the 75% hike in tuition fees.

Around 700 people broke into the Université de Montréal on Apr. 6 to demand the resignation of the university’s president and vent their frustration. Outnumbered security officers were ordered to leave the scene for their safety.

As the crowd marched on, waving signs and chanting slogans, protesters knocked down doors, smashed windows and fired paintballs here and there.

The Roger-Gaudry building is a magnificent heritage building used for convocations, and is highly representative of the Art Deco period. Not so long ago the amphitheatre underwent a complete restoration in keeping with its heritage value.

The damage done to the amphitheatre was disturbing. Dozens of seats had paint splashed all over them. Before the protesters fled, someone emptied a 20-litre bucket of white latex paint on the cork flooring, probably causing permanent damage. “We don’t know yet if the floor can be salvaged,” said Flavie Côté, UdeM’s communications officer during an interview.

There’s more. Masked protesters were filmed using a battering ram trying to break open the majestic hardwood door leading to the president’s office in the main hall of the tower. This area was quickly cleaned up. “But the door is badly chipped and stained and shows permanent damage,” Côté said.

The demonstrators quickly fled when they suspected the riot squad was on the way. Footage of the action soon appeared on UniversiTV and YouTube for all to see.

Côté says the cost of the vandalism has yet to be assessed, but it’s not hard to see that cleaning and repairing the damage will cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Police made an arrest the next day. The accused, Félix Généreux-Marotte, a 20-year old cegep student, appeared in court on Apr. 16 facing various charges, including break and enter, mischief over $5000, conspiracy, and theft under $5000. The Montreal resident was linked to the vandalism at Line Beauchamp’s office, also attacked that day. He was released on a promise to not be on the island of Montreal except for his job at an IGA, and other strict conditions.

Côté said that no particular group claimed responsibility for the attack. “All we know is they were asking for Guy Breton to resign as president.”

The university issued a statement condemning these acts as unacceptable. The FAECUM, UdeM’s student association, also issued a disclaimer about any participation in this type of event and said that their members are respecting the 10-day injunction issued by the Quebec Superior Court on Apr. 11.

A Léger Marketing poll produced for the Journal de Montréal shows that Quebecers’ support for the students’ tuition fee-hike battle with the Quebec government has dropped significantly over the past two weeks.

[ Marie Cicchini ]

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