Peace­ful anti-po­lice bru­tal­ity protest “sur­pris­ing”

No ar­rests or ket­tling at the 20th an­nual march

The McGill Daily - - News - Marina Cupido & Xavier Richer Vis The Mcgill Daily

At 8 p.m. on March 15, over 500 peo­ple gath­ered to par­tic­i­pate in Mon­treal’s an­nual march against po­lice bru­tal­ity. In stark con­trast to the pre­vi­ous year’s march, where more than 90 peo­ple were ket­tled, not a sin­gle pro­tester was de­tained or as­saulted by the po­lice, and the event ended peace­fully at around 9:30 p.m.

Meet­ing at Rachel and Garnier on the cor­ner of Parc La Fon­taine, pro­test­ers heard a series of speeches be­fore march­ing south­west toward the down­town area.

Ad­dress­ing the crowd in both French and English, or­ga­niz­ers pointed to the fact that over 1,000 peo­ple in the U.S. alone were mur­dered by po­lice in 2015, and made ref­er­ence to the nu­mer­ous in­stances of po­lice vi­o­lence com­mit­ted with im­punity against marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties across the globe.

“Un­til the killing, the occupation, the pro­fil­ing and the abuse come to an end, there will al­ways be an anti-po­lice bru­tal­ity demon­stra­tion,” said one or­ga­nizer. “We are not pow­er­less. We will al­ways out­num­ber them.”

Many peo­ple present said that they had per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced po­lice vi­o­lence.

“We’re here be­cause we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced po­lice bru­tal­ity,” one pro­tester, who wished to re­main anony­mous, told The Daily. “We think it’s un­fair [...] that a cer­tain seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion [...] is able to use vi­o­lence against us when we’re do­ing noth­ing wrong.”

“Cer­tain peo­ple are [at­tack­ing city prop­erty] but they’re a mi­nor­ity. [...] We don’t have the right to ex­press our opin­ions, and I think that’s re­ally sad,” the pro­tester con­tin­ued.

“But I’m re­ally sur­prised,” an­other pro­tester told The Daily, roughly 45 min­utes into the march, “be­cause it’s un­usual for [the po­lice] to let us march for such a long time. [...] Last year [at the anti-po­lice bru­tal­ity march] I got pep­per sprayed and hit with a po­lice ba­ton.”

Pro­test­ers ad­justed their route when they were blocked by squad cars, po­lice on bi­cy­cles, and riot lines. March­ing west on Sher­brooke from La Fon­taine to St. De­nis, they briefly turned south be­fore con­tin­u­ing west on Ste. Cather­ine.

Po­lice pres­ence was light com­pared to pre­vi­ous protests, although roughly a dozen of­fi­cers on horse­back fol­lowed through­out the march. Many ac­tivists ex­pressed sur­prise at the po­lice al­low­ing the march to con­tinue, since an itinerary had not been pro­vided, mak­ing the event il­le­gal un­der the con­tro­ver­sial mu­nic­i­pal by­law P- 6.

Ac­cord­ing to the Toronto Star, “pro­test­ers didn’t have a planned march route be­cause most of them ex­pected po­lice to shut down the protest min­utes af­ter it started.” At last year’s anti-po­lice bru­tal­ity protest, riot po­lice ket­tled the de­mon­stra­tors at an un­der­pass near Berri and On­tario, barely ten min­utes af­ter they be­gan march­ing. On that oc­ca­sion 95 peo­ple were ar­rested or tick­eted, in­clud­ing stu­dent jour­nal­ists from the Link who had been cov­er­ing the event.

One pro­tester, who also pre­ferred to re­main anony­mous, ex­pressed guarded op­ti­mism based on the po­lice’s rel­a­tive re­straint. “I think that since the death of Fredy Vil­lanueva, and the 2012 [stu­dent] strike, there’s been more open dis­cus­sion [of po­lice bru­tal­ity] and a cer­tain amount of anger against Que­bec law en­force­ment. Peo­ple are trust­ing them less and less, and to a cer­tain ex­tent, they’re no longer will­ing to [...] in­jure and kill as ar­bi­trar­ily as they used to,” they said.

At roughly 9:30 p.m., the march ended peace­fully at Cabot Square near the At­wa­ter metro sta­tion.

No marchers were de­tained or as­saulted, and no tick­ets were is­sued that night.

“Un­til the killing, the occupation, the pro­fil­ing and the abuse come to an end, there will al­ways be an anti-po­lice bru­tal­ity demon­stra­tion.” Protest or­ga­nizer

“It’s un­usual for [the po­lice] to let us march for such a long time.” A pro­tester

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