Police brutalize Anti-Police Brutality Demo – again!

March 15th marked the 13th International Day Against Police Brutality, and in Montreal the mood was tense after an unusually brutal year whereby police officers killed a young man after they found him playing dice with his friends. Early in the evening on August 9th, 2008, 18 year old Fredy Villanueva was shot dead at point-blank range by Constable Jean-Loup Lapointe, as his accomplice, Stéphanie Pilotte, looked on. After killing the unarmed Villanueva, Lapointe went on to shoot two of the other youth present, one of them in the back. In Montreal police abuse is systemic, and there are special concerns about racial profiling, harassment of the disadvantaged, and police brutality in general.

Protest Against Police Brutality

Protest Against Police Brutality

Protesters met at 2 p.m. in front of Mount Royal metro station to express their displeasure with the Montreal police and their brutal ways. Organized by the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP), the protesters are demanding justice for victims of police brutality and the end of police oppression. The COPB also provides legal information for people who are threatened by police.

Unfortunately most years in Montreal the International Day Against Police Brutality turns violent once police begin attacking protesters. Ironically by instigating violence against those opposing police brutality, the police actually highlight the message that they are, in fact, brutal. Last year there were over 30 arrests after police turned violent.

Dramatically-speaking, it has been a farcical year in Montreal with the police attempting to control the theatre in the streets, demanding the banning of masks and even attempting to make illegal certain types of discourse, script or language. Exacerbating these problems is the fact that the police not only want to curtail critical drama on the streets, but they have also upped the stakes of their own intimidating performance;  allegedly as a form of protest for higher wages, police have altered their uniform/costume by dressing up in military fatigues. Despite the fact that the mayor of Montreal has asked police to act professionally and not to wear the camoflage pants at the protest, the police refused, essentially creating provocative recipe for violence.

The protest began at 2 p.m. at Mount Royal metro station. Usually a bustling square, the public space was transformed into a huge carnivalesque gathering place, with protesters preparing to march as the Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble rehearsed.

Chaotic Insurgence Ensemble rehearsing

Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble rehearsing

The crowd was thick with arts-activists and many people wore masks of all varieties, a reminder of the recent victory against the attempted mask-ban.

Lovely dramatic masks

Lovely dramatic masks

One man even dressed up as a Taser to raise awareness about the deadly police weapons.

Taser costume

Taser costume

Visiting the fringes of the gathering was a surreal experience, as critical citizens and dramatic voices melted away to what resembled a police state. Hidden in alleyways were riot cops, two helicopters buzzed overhead, and vans full of police officers lined surrounding streets.

Police chopper overhead

Police chopper overhead

More overtly, a few lines of riot cops were visible on most sides of the square. One officer belonging to the very police force that attempted to ban masks was actually spotted wearing two masks himself.

Officer wearing 2 masks

Officer wearing 2 masks

Even more bizarrely, the horses of the cavalry unit were actually outfitted with riot masks.

Even horses wear masks

Even police horses wore masks

At 2:30 p.m. the crowd began to surge and move. The marching band started playing, vegetables were thrown and fireworks exploded in the air, adding to the festive atmosphere. The line of riot police had to get out of the way at 2:50 p.m. as the protest surged to the west towards the tony Saint Denis street, which was quickly inundated with protesters chanting “A qui la rue? A nous la rue!” The Reclaim the Streets action quickly shut down traffic in both directions, and the avenue of pricey consumerism was transformed into a theatre of protest, complete with activist couples dancing as the Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble played on.

Dancing in the streets

Dancing in the streets

As the carnivalesque march moved south, at around 3:25 p.m. it was greeted by a wall of riot cops on Saint Denis and Sherbrooke streets. Rather than let the dramatic march continue, police fired tear gas at the crowd, who responded by pelting their own projectiles such as vegetables, eggs, and paint bombs.

Police fire tear gas at activists

Police fire tear gas at activists

The police responded with more tear gas and strategies to divide and disperse the crowd. Activists broke into smaller groups and police played cat and mouse with many of them throughout the afternoon, with reports of rubber bullets being fired at demonstrators. How many people were injured by the police is the subject of speculation, but there is evidence that over 200 people were arrested, an unusually high number for a march of this nature. Shell casings retieved following the police tear gas attack revealled that the chemical weapon is actually called “Direct Impact”.

police chemical weapon casing

police chemical weapon casing

Upon reflection, this important protest was very theatrical in nature. As activists struggled for control of the street performance to get the critical message out, police cracked down on the show with their own brutal theatricality. It was empowering to see activists countering the police’s helicopters, cavalry units, tear gas shells, and military costumes – with fireworks, a DIY marching band, Reclaim the Streets, dramatic performances, and a strong, clear message that every Montrealer should heed – no more police brutality!

11 Responses to “Police brutalize Anti-Police Brutality Demo – again!”

  1. Logic and Reason Says:

    The blog obviously was written from the point of view of a protester whom although I may have disagreement with, I respect and defend his point of view. I only want to say that the CS gas cannister that the protester was showing was NOT fired by the police but rather from the protest group. I have sat in city council meetings and the CS gas that the blogger showed is actually illegal for use in a city of Montreal s size and density of population. Police in large cities are prohibited to use this gas on the population so we need to understand each other that although you may express your opinion freely. You should not lie in order to make a statement or your credibility will be in question.

  2. king Says:

    I do not appreciate any insinuation that a “lie” is at work here regarding police weaponry. Not only did I personally witness the gas-attack, but the Direct Impact shell is a well-documented police weapon that activists do not have access to:

    The 40MM Direct Impact round is a “point of aim, point of impact” direct fire round that is most commonly used by tactical teams in situations where maximum deliverable energy is desired for the incapacitation of an aggressive, non-compliant subject.

    The Direct Impact round is intended for direct fire deployment. The operator should be adequately trained in the use of Specialty Impact Munitions and have a thorough understanding of the round and considerations for selecting shot placement such as level of threat, target distance, size, and clothing.

    The Direct Impact round will prove most successful for incapacitation when used within its optimal energy range of approximately 10-75 feet, although it may be used in situations from 5 to 120 feet. The optimal zone offers the necessary energy and accuracy to target the large muscle groups of the buttocks, thigh, and even the knees of the subject. These areas provide sufficient pain stimulus, while greatly reducing serious or life threatening injuries. However, the size and weight of this round makes it the safest of all choices for engaging the abdomen or upper torso of the subject.

    The Direct Impact round can also deployed in crowd control situations to protect the riot line, cover or enhance chemical munitions, or targeting specific agitators and organizers of the crowd. When used in this fashion, it is primarily both a psychological deterrent and physiological distraction serving as a pain compliance device to either get the crowd (or subject) moving or keeping them at a designated distance.

    Source: http://minnesotaindependent.com/7923/crowd-control-at-the-rnc-fifty-million-unanswered-questions

    If it is illegal to use this chemical weapon in Montreal, I urge the comment poster to make a formal complaint against the police to City Hall as soon as possible. Firing chemical weapons in densely populated neighbourhoods puts citizens at risk, and hence should be totally illegal. In this case, the weapons were fired arbitrarily. Had the police simply allowed the march to proceed there would have been no skirmish – or chemical attack.

  3. TheMontrealGuy Says:

    So you think if the police had not intervened, the violent guys would not have destroyed the Dourmez Vous, UQAM, Ben’s, and cars windows? I’d say it’s not related at all. If someone is willing to destroy something that has NOTHING to do with the demonstration, then he will do it regardless of the police presence. I am against police brutality AND moronic destruction. I wish you had talked about the latter in here. I wish you would admit that the chaos during the march was not only the police’s fault but also the responsibility of some kids who believe random destruction will do anything good for this cause. I was there and I know these are just a few kids and by no means were supported by the marchers. I am just pointing out something that for some strange reason you failed to point out. I do it for the benefit of the reader. Thanks for your article.

  4. TheMontrealGuy Says:

    By the way, I don’t want to judge by appearances, but it seemed to me that those were the same kids who made a riot a few years ago because the band they were waiting for couldn’t show up. I tell you, hooligans are only making the march seem trivial and contradictory, and eventually the organizers will have to do or say something about it. I hope they do, and until then, I will not take part in any other march of this nature.

  5. Sholom Hoffman Says:

    I give all those present credit for standing out against tyranny. For it is the people, not the police, who own the streets and it is our right to march the streets whenever we have cause to do it. We must fight such a dictatorial regime that want to silence the people, and stand up for our freedoms. Your article also demonstrates the fact that such a war against police brutality does not end with this protest but must be resisted at all moments. We must not only reclaim the streets but reclaim our freedom from police/military takeover. thank you once again Donovan for again providing an accurate picture of the demonstration.

  6. jc Says:

    To “Montreal Guy”: I think, while not reported here as such, the “moronic destruction” you refer to hasn’t been ignored. In fact, if you look at CTV, The Gazette or any of the other media that covered this event, you’ll see that destruction of property and the supposed bad behavior of the protesters is all they could talk about. CTV even had a poll up asking viewers if they thought the city should even issue a permit for the protest next year. There’s a big difference between “intervening” as you suggest and provoking, which is what the police did. This is something that has been ignored by all corporate media and apparently by you, too.

  7. Sholom Hoffman Says:

    They even blocked people from entering certain roads as was reported in the Gazette. Blocking the people from walking in certain streets is against our freedoms as citizens as well as it shows the police and government’s desire to turn this place into a police state.

  8. TheMontrealGuy Says:

    Sholom Hoffman, you might be exaggerating a little. Anywhere in the world police would block streets during demonstrations like this one in order to prevent them from blocking the traffic and other reasons. This might be good or bad, who knows. But it has nothing to do with any intentions to turn the place into a police state. Don’t try to create conflicts in your mind just so that you have something to complain about. Your behaviour is way too common among the middle class population in most developed countries, it has become a stereotype and it is taken seriously by almost nobody.

    Again please don’t trivialize the real meaning of the protest by taking everything to the extreme. Nobody will take us seriously if we keep talking just like the sensationalist media we dislike so much.

    jc, I know the police provoked people, but they didn’t provoke them to break store or car windows, that makes no sense. I was there and I saw them aim at the windows, it was not a mistake. If those kids had not done that, if the confrontation had been only between police and marchers, believe me, the media would be focused on the protest and not on them. My point is that we need to do something about them, we need to get and talk to them somehow or otherwise the message of the march will never be spread. In fact, I am sure the number of people on our side has decreased thanks to what they did. That is what I mean by trivializing our message, and I am sure we all agree on that.

    I agree with almost everything you say. I did see some police attacking marchers for no reason. I know there is police brutality here (not as much as in almost any other North American city, but there is!) and that’s why I was in the march (some reasons are more personal but I won’t get into that). I do not agree however, with the idea that our side should ignore the kids who just want to destroy the city we love so much, and don’t care at all about the meaning of the protest. They are our enemies as much as those who are opposed to the protest.

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