Tak­ing a stand against po­lice bru­tal­ity

Pro­test­ers shoot fire­works at po­lice, who re­spond by ket­tling pro­test­ers

The McGill Daily - - News - Rayleigh Lee

On the evening of Wed­nes­day March 15, more than a hun­dred peo­ple gath­ered at Place Valois, de­spite a snow­storm, to par­tic­i­pate in Mon­treal’s an­nual March against Po­lice Bru­tal­ity.

The march was or­ga­nized as part of the In­ter­na­tional Day Against Po­lice Bru­tal­ity by the Col­lec­tive Op­posed to Po­lice Bru­tal­ity (COBP), an or­ga­ni­za­tion formed in 1995 in re­sponse to ar­rests fol­low­ing a demon­stra­tion against Hu­man Life In­ter­na­tional (HLI).

The theme of this year’s march was gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, high­light­ing the struggles of those marginal­ized by the in­flux of lux­ury busi­nesses and house­holds into low­in­come neigh­bor­hoods. As such, the protest be­gan in Hochelaga-Maison­neuve, a com­mu­nity cur­rently un­der­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Open­ing re­marks

In one of the open­ing speeches, made at Place Valois, an anony­mous or­ga­nizer de­nounced the sys­temic op­pres­sion which has his­tor­i­cally been per­pe­trated by po­lice forces, specif­i­cally as re­lated to racism and colo­nial­ism.

“Year af­ter year, we ask our­selves the same ques­tion,” said the or­ga­nizer. “Who pro­tects us from the po­lice? [...] This ques­tion arises when the suf­fer­ing at the hands of the SPVM is con­sid­ered ac­cept­able by the me­dia [...] Who pro­tects us from the po­lice? Let us think about the [Indige­nous] women [...] who have dis­ap­peared, who were vi­o­lated by po­lice of­fi­cers. Think of the fam­i­lies who are de­fence­less against the sys­tem, that have worked five hun­dred years against un­end­ing col­o­niza­tion [...] Who pro­tects us from the po­lice? I ask this ques­tion ev­ery day, as we see po­lice abuses of all kinds. [...] Who pro­tects us from the po­lice? [...] We can count only on [....] our­selves, our com­mu­ni­ties, our neigh­bour­hoods, and our solidarity to pro­tect our­selves.”

Po­lice in­ter­ven­tion

Once the in­tro­duc­tory speeches had been de­liv­ered, the protest be­gan. Par­tic­i­pants marched briskly along On­tario street, mov­ing west to­wards the Quartier des Spec­ta­cles. They held ban­ners de­nounc­ing po­lice bru­tal­ity, cap­i­tal­ism, and racism, and shouted slo­gans ex­u­ber­antly as they walked.

The pro­test­ers were es­corted by the Ser­vice de po­lice de la ville de Mon­tréal (SPVM), who fol­lowed the march closely, but did not ini­tially in­ter­vene. This con­tin­ued for roughly two hours, un­til the march reached down­town Mon­treal, where­upon a small sub­sec­tion of the demon­stra­tors be­gan smash­ing the win­dows of stores and of a nearby po­lice car. A few fire­works were also thrown at the SPVM of­fi­cers who, by this point, had be­gun to sur­round the march.

As the ten­sion pal­pa­bly in­creased, many pro­test­ers took this op­por­tu­nity to leave the scene. Mean­while, the re­main­der of the group pro­ceeded back east­ward along Ste. Cather­ine, closely fol­lowed by dozens of po­lice of­fi­cers in full riot gear.

At the junc­tion of St. Ur­bain and Ste. Cather­ine, the SPVM sur­rounded the now smaller march, ket­tling sev­eral dif­fer­ent groups of peo­ple. Even­tu­ally, how­ever, all of those ket­tled ei­ther pushed their way out or were re­leased. No ar­rests were made, and no fines were im­posed, al­though some pro­test­ers’ back­packs were taken by the po­lice as ev­i­dence. Small groups of pro­test­ers con­tin­ued walk­ing for a short pe­riod of time, but af­ter the con­fronta­tion at St. Ur­bain the protest was ef­fec­tively dis­persed.

Racism and po­lice bru­tal­ity

The 2016 March ended with no po­lice in­ter­ven­tions or ar­rests, un­like pre­vi­ous years where mul­ti­ple fines were im­posed.

“Last year it went re­ally well and we were all very sur­prised about that,” said a par­tic­i­pant vol­un­teer­ing as a medic who asked to re­main anony­mous when speak­ing to The Daily. “But [...] it’s hard to tell what to ex­pect from [the po­lice]. I think that there’s been a lot of newer peo­ple get­ting in­volved, [...] I think this march has a rep­u­ta­tion, and I think that peo­ple [...] know and ex­pect it to be a lot more in­tense than usual.”

The medic, a mem­ber of Re­sist Trump and the Far Right, also high­lighted how marginal­ized pop­u­la­tions – pri­mar­ily Black and Indige­nous peo­ple – are sub­ject to dis­pro­por­tion­ate lev­els of po­lice bru­tal­ity.

“This march [...] re­ally mat­ters to me be­cause I’ve per­son­ally been a victim of po­lice ha­rass­ment and cer­tain bad ex­pe­ri­ences with po­lice,” they ex­plained. “But I also think that [...] what’s go­ing on [...] in re­gard to the po­lice and the Indige­nous peo­ple in Canada is [...] ab­so­lutely some­thing that needs to be talked about more. [...] There is po­lice bru­tal­ity in Canada, it’s not just in the United States and peo­ple of color are the ones [who] suf­fer the most from it. So I think that needs to be ad­dressed more.”

“Who pro­tects us from the po­lice? I ask this ques­tion ev­ery day, as we see po­lice abuses of all kinds.” –Anony­mous or­ga­nizer “Let us think about the [Indige­nous] women [...] who have dis­ap­peared, who were vi­o­lated by po­lice of­fi­cers.” –Anony­mous or­ga­nizer “Last year it went re­ally well and we were all very sur­prised about that. [But] it’s hard to tell what to ex­pect from [the po­lice].” –Anony­mous Vol­un­teer medic “This march has a rep­u­ta­tion, and I think that peo­ple [...] know and ex­pect it to be a lot more in­tense than usual.” –Anony­mous Vol­un­teer medic

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.