Determine why occupation would be the most appropriate recourse.
• The 6Party member interviewed reflected on whether occupation was the most appropriate action for this kind of space. She thinks occupations are more useful when they repurpose or reclaim spaces. One example of this is protesting the closure of a café by taking it over and turning it into a cooperative.
• Have a decent amount of people working on it. Divest Mcgill had seven people doing the bulk of the planning.
• Work on your team dynamics: the 6Party member interviewed told me that toxic dynamics killed the cohesion and drive of the occupation. Divest Mcgill, on the other hand, thought about the potential physical problems that could arise during the occupation and worked on getting the team to know each other beforehand. Make sure your group has an awareness of anti- oppressive practices, and a knowledge of group dynamics and collective care.
• Plan for food and equipment: do a Costco run and get food, sleeping bags, menstrual products, books, laptops, clothes, board games, anything to get you through the days of the occupation smoothly.
Things to keep in mind when organizing.
• Use code names: Divest Mcgill always referred to the operation during planning as the “pizza party” — nothing suspicious about a pizza party, is there?
• Use diversions: During their occupation, Divest Mcgill publicized their upcoming diploma returning ceremony as a distraction. They were able to multitask because they had about 40 active working members, which isn’t the case for most student groups.
• Don’t use your Mcgill email. Assume that it can be accessed by the administration.
• Use encrypted messaging applications if necessary, like Signal.
Decide on your demands:
• Divest Mcgill decided their demands as a group beforehand. The 6Party member interviewed regretted that 6Party came in with no clear demands, and therefore had to think of them on the spot, which is not optimal for a productive discussion.
• The hardest part of settling on demands is finding a balance between what would be optimal, what students would rally behind, and what the administration might accept. s The Divest Mcgill member interviewed regretted that 2 of their 3 demands were too easy for the administration to accept (releasing testimonies from experts claiming climate change did not cause grave social injury, and holding community consultations on divestment). The administration was able to kill the momentum by granting these two demands and ignoring the most important one, which would have forced the administration to recognize that climate change does cause “grave social injury” and thus push them to divest. The member interviewed wished their demands were bolder, like asking directly for the university to divest from fossil fuel. s The 6Party’s demands were bold ( asking for the referendum results to be valid again and for the resignation of the DPSLL), and although none of them were granted, the member interviewed expressed that the demands could have been even broader! In her opinion, the result had more to do with the administration’s antagonistic attitude of the time than the demands.
Plan for an exit routes and a worst case scenario.
• What will you do if none of your demands are met? How will you make sure this defeat doesn’t kill the momentum of your movement but instead makes it stronger? How will you talk about your occupation?