Montreal police break up drone research blockade

NEWS_Demil-Demo_Tamim-Sujat_WEBIn a sign of growing opposition to military research on campus, over twenty people participated Friday morning in a blockade of the Aerospace Mechatronics Lab, the site of ongoing drone research funded by the Canadian military. The action lasted for close to four hours.

At approximately 11:00am, McGill Dean of Students André Costopoulos called the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) onto campus to break up the demonstration. At about 11:30am, four officers entered the Macdonald Engineering Building and approached the blockade. They seized a banner reading “End Drone Research,” indicating they would use force to break up the blockade. All the blockaders were able to leave the building safely, and there were no arrests.

The blockade, which began at 7:45am, was in rapid response to Thursday’s revelations of the lab’s ongoing drone research funded by the Canadian military. Access to the offices of two professors tied to military research (Inna Sharf and David Frost) was blocked as well. The Aerospace Mechatronics Lab itself had been left unlocked, allowing demonstrators to enter and get an up-close look at the unmanned rotorcraft being used in the lab’s research.

Documents obtained through an access-to-information request have revealed that McGill contracted with the Canadian military to develop autonomous landing systems for miniature drones. The Request for Proposals for the research describes the technology “provid[ing] battle-space awareness that provides a force multiplier to the dismounted soldier unit.” The Canadian military is funding the research in the amount of $380,000. The revelations are clear evidence of the university developing technology for use in warfare.

A further source of concern arises from the troubling reality that university research agendas and graduate student opportunities are being increasingly dictated by outside parties, including military agencies.

A leaflet distributed at the blockade reads: “We are taking this action to send a clear message that research contracts in support of imperialist warfare will no longer go unchallenged at McGill, and in the hopes of sparking a critical discussion of military research amongst members of the campus community. [...] We are acting to disrupt McGill’s involvement in the preparations of the Canadian military for future wars. Technological demands change, but some things don’t. Western states continue to wage war to advance the interests of their social and economic system, asserting power over certain territories and bodies through organized violence and the systematic production of terror. McGill’s complicity in this imperialist project must end.”

In the media:
McGill Daily

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