MONTREAL, September 9, 2002 (2:37pm) — Montreal riot police used pepper spray and tear gas inside Concordia University against Palestinian solidarity demonstrators. The main building at Concordia has been evacuated by security guards as the air in the building was unbreatheable. Several individuals were bent over, coughing and vomiting, as they tried to get away from the fumes.
Ex-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech has been cancelled, and according to press reports, he was not even able to enter the building.
There were several injuries to protesters, as well as several arrests. Classes have been cancelled in the Hall Building.
At least two-thousand demonstrators gathered outside Concordia’s main downtown campus this morning to demonstrate against the former right-wing Prime Minister of Israel. The crowd was comprised of a majority of Arab and Palestinian demonstrators, as well as many students and allies from all over Montreal. Protesters waved Palestinian flags, and several handed out “arrest warrants” charging Netanyahu with war crimes. [The text of the warrant is included below.] There was also a contingent representing the Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation, who organized street theatre against Netanyahu.
Demonstrators marched around the Hall Building, which was partially closed. Students could only enter from one entrance, in a building where thousands enter and leave every day, and the entire main lobby was closed off. Metal barricades were erected around the building, and there were hundreds of police on hand to be deployed. Many Netanyahu ticket-holders were blocked from entering the building, and there were several verbal confrontations, as well as pushing-and-shoving between pro-Israel and Palestinian solidarity demonstrators. The editorial page editor of the National Post was blocked from entering the building for a time.
After about an hour, hundreds of demonstrators gained access to the second floor, occupying the escalators overlooking the lobby. They chanted and sung while ticket-holders entered the building and passed through metal detectors. Riot police blocked the bottom of the escalator, while demonstrators outside, both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel, banged on the windows opposite the demonstators and police. The pro-Israel protesters were urging the police to react, and some cheered whenever the police assaulted the pro-Palestinian protesters.
Several individuals tried to push thru the riot police, and the police responded with shield and baton blows. At one point, the force of people banging windows outdoors smashed the glass. At least two demonstrators, both Palestinian activists, had to be carried back up the escalators due to injuries from baton blows. Various demonstrators, who were outraged, continued to push, and throw various projectiles at the police.
The police then used tear gas and pepper spray, which dispersed the crowd up the escalator, while outside, another large window was broken. As demonstrators retreated, several threw chairs and other large projectiles at the police in the lobby below.
The building was very quickly thick with gas and pepper spray, which spread all over the building. Demonstrators were not equipped with gas masks, although several protected themselves with kaffiyehs they had worn for the demonstration. Many students were overcome by gas sitting in their classrooms.
It is now over one hour after the incidents at Concordia, and hundreds of demonstrators are still outside the Hall Building. There have been standoffs between pro-Israel and Palestinian solidarity demonstrators, and there are reports of more arrests.
With the cancellation of Netanyahu’s speech, the organizers of today’s demonstration — various Palestinian student activists and their allies — are declaring the day a success. Netanyahu is still scheduled to speak in Winnipeg later tonite, and in Ottawa and Toronto tomorrow, where more protests are planned.
At a press conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, after the cancellation, Netanyahu complained about the security at the venue, and denounced the demonstrators, saying they were enemies of freedom.
— written and reported inside the Hall Building at Concordia University (Montreal)
[Below is the text of an arrest warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu issued by several Montreal-area activists …]
for the arrest of BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, former Prime Minister of Israel; on the charges of crimes against humanity and crimes of war.
This warrant, dated September 9, 2002, permits the immediate arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel, on the charges of crimes against humanity and crimes of war.
According to verified sources, Mr. Netanyahu will be in Montreal on September 9, 2002, and will be in the vicinity of the Hall Building at Concordia University between 10am to 3pm.
Mr. Netanyahu is to be arrested on sight by either competent authorities or ordinary citizens and residents.
Canada’s own war crimes legislation authorizes the arrest and trial of war criminals for offenses committed outside the country. As Prime Minister of Israel between 1996-99, and as an official of the Israeli government, Mr. Netanyahu is alleged to have committed — or to have been directly complicit in — gross abuses of human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories and the state of Israel. These crimes are tantamount to crimes against humanity and crimes of war, under widely recognized and internationally accepted definitions of both the Government of Canada, as well as the United Nations.
Mr. Netanyahu’s alleged crimes include:
* Authorizing extra-judicial executions throughout his term as Prime Minister.
* Authorizing the torture of over approximately 2500 Palestinians in Israeli jails, leading to the deaths of several detainees and injury to many more. The International Convention against Torture — ratified by the state of Israel — as well as the Convention on Civil and Political Rights explicitly prohibit torture under any circumstances.
* Authorizing over 249 house demolitions in the occupied territories — unequivocally prohibited by the 4th Geneva Convention — constituting a war crime in the form of collective punishment.
* Authorizing the construction of 6500 settlement-housing units in the occupied territories — in contravention of several United Nations Security Council resolutions as well as Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention — and increasing the number of illegal settlers in the Palestinian occupied territories by 9%.
* Authorizing the deadly and disproportionate use of force in September 1996 against unarmed demonstrators protesting his order to blast a tunnel under Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount).
All of the above-cited crimes are documented and verifiable, by both eyewitness and expert testimony.
Upon arrest, Mr. Netanyahu is entitled to competent legal counsel and due process. He is also entitled to a fair and impartial trial.
Legal authorities in Canada — the federal and provincial governments and their respective law enforcement agencies — are bound to uphold this warrant by virtue of federal statutes. Failure to do so constitutes gross neglect of duty and is criminally punishable.
Those who obstruct or impede the arrest of Mr. Netanyahu, or the implementation of this warrant, are guilty of “aiding and abetting” which is a criminal offense.
This warrant is issued in the genuine interest of ending the crimes of occupation in the Palestinian territories and the state of Israel, in a spirit of solidarity with the courageous resistance and intifada of the Palestinian people, and with the aim of achieving a just peace between the peoples of the Middle East.
— September 9, 2002 Montreal, Quebec, Canada