I didn’t go to the Montreal Anti Monsanto March Saturday. It’s not because I’m lazy and it’s not because I support Monsanto, far from it. They’re a horrible company and protesting them is necessary.

I didn’t go because the organizers decided to follow the wholly unconstitutional bylaw P6 and provide the SPVM with their route. It’s not as though they didn’t know it was a problem.

For weeks, activists posted on their Facebook event page letting them know why this is wrong. They even started polls and event attendees voted almost unanimously not to provide a route. Instead of taking potential participants’ wishes to heart, organizers deleted the posts and kept with their line.

They cited security concerns. Now while I can understand someone not wanting to bring their kids or themselves into a mini war zone, that wouldn’t have been the case with this march.

The SPVM have made it crystal clear, in action though not in speech, that they’re not shutting down protests like this one, route or no. They didn’t enforce P6 at the anti-Harper rally after activists convinced organizers to not follow P6 and don’t get me started on Habs victory celebrations.

Montreal Anti-Monsanto March 2014 (7)

No, the SPVM have made it clear that they’re only kettling, fining, arresting and even injuring protestors at marches they deem undesirable like student protests, the Anti-Police Brutality March and May Day to name a few. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

It’s also why all activists, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, need to, at least symbolically, oppose P6. If the SPVM can decide what protests are okay and which ones can’t happen (don’t kid yourself, submitting a route for their approval gives them that power) then we’re all screwed.

Whether you’re fighting for immigration reform, against police brutality, against whatever it is the right wing protests or against Monsanto, it’s your right. If you let the SPVM take that away from some people then they could very easily take it away from you, too.

If you’re against Monsanto then you should be against P6. When enforcing this horrid law, the SPVM are acting like Monsanto.

Monsanto genetically engineers our food supply so we get Franken-foods. P6 gives us Franken-rights.

It’s just a route, a simple request. Well, it’s just corn, GMO corn, a simple alteration.

Monsanto pits neighbour against neighbour. The SPVM pits activist against activist. It’s working on both fronts.

Montreal Anti-Monsanto March 2014 (6)

Monsanto forces farmers to buy their terminator seeds by selling them to the farmer’s neighbour and then threatening legal action when the wind blows a few patented seeds from one property to the other. The SPVM sells one group of activists the idea that they’ll be fine if they take one simple step and submit a route and then uses that group’s acquiescence as justification to both physical and legally attack another group who didn’t buy their rights-terminating bylaw.

In both cases a foreign body is introduced into an ecosystem that doesn’t need it or want it. Terminator seeds and P6 are both poison.

If you want to think local, think about not staying silent when the SPVM and P6’s political supporters, our own local Monsanto genetically engineer our rights. Then protesting the conglomerate will make sense.

Photos by Iana Kazakova.

 

Mayor Coderre,

First off, I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t vote for you. In fact, I openly supported your opponents.

I am, however, a lifelong Montrealer and you are now my mayor. And if you are the mayor of all Montrealers, then I ask you to listen to what I have to say.

Recently, you’ve surprised me – in a good way. A special status for the city is long overdue, and even though your pilot project to let bars stay open later seems to be aimed mainly at tourists, it’s a good start, and you’re the one who took the first steps. So kudos for that.

You get this city. You know that we have a long love affair with the Habs and I’m sure you’re also aware that we have a long history of activism for social justice.

While you let playoff victory celebrations continue uninterrupted, as you should have , last Thursday your police force, our police force, pre-emptively kettled three May Day demonstrations simultaneously. Why the double-standard?

You understand that people expressing their support for the Habs should be allowed to continue unless they turn violent and you’re right. Why not apply the same approach to people expressing their political opinions?

Let’s be honest, more destruction happened in the last hockey riot than in a year of student protest. But I’m not asking for an unbalanced approach, just a fair one: if there’s no violence, let it continue, if there is violence, arrest those committing the violent acts…period.

While you may love hockey and not understand why people are protesting other things, it doesn’t matter. It’s not your call, Mr. Mayor.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of expression and assembly. It doesn’t say anything about providing a route.

The changes your predecessor made to by-law P6 a couple of years ago were wrong. The ensuing mass kettlings are a blow to Montreal’s reputation as a progressive international city, whereas the Maple Spring was a sense of pride and didn’t hurt our tourism, despite dire predictions and warnings.

may day arrests 2014 chart
Image by G.A.P.P.A.

Before, people protested things the federal and provincial government did. Now, activists are fighting for the very right to protest, and they’re fighting you, Mr. Mayor.

I call on you to take yourself and the City of Montreal out of the equation. I call on you to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I call on you to repeal the changes made to P6 under the Tremblay administration.

You didn’t pass this legislation but your administration is now enforcing it. Your administration can change this situation and I’m sure most of the opposition will support you on this.

Ideally, I’d ask you to also apologize to all those detained and fined and reprimand or fire the top SPVM brass behind P6 enforcement, but you seem to want to take things slow. Fine, start your drinking-time extensions on just a few touristy streets and start your reform of police tactics by upholding our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Montreal loves the Habs, we love our  late night revelry, and we love our fundamental freedoms and history of activism. You get the first two, now is the time to embrace our progressive political movements and truly be the mayor of all Montrealers.

Well, the Montreal Police seem to be on a roll this year. On January 2nd, one of the coldest days Montreal had in a long time, we got a video of an SPVM officer Gauthier threatening to tie a homeless man to a poll outside for an hour:

Then, faster than you can properly spin this as an isolated indecent with one bad apple, we get another video. This time, police enter a McDonalds and walk past the camera, then, with no time for any type of verbal confrontation, they’re back in view, shoving a group of teens in the opposite direction when one cop takes a swing at one of the kids.

Shortly after the first video started spreading on Twitter and Facebook, both Mayor Denis Coderre and the SPVM brass through spokesperson Ian Lafrenière came out against the officer ‘s actions, promising an investigation. Lafrenière reaction to the second video was different, according to him it lacks context.

I honestly don’t know what context could possibly have to do with it. No one is debating whether or not the teens deserved to be ejected from the McDonald’s, only the way the police chose to do it. Here’s how the cops are supposed to handle something like this: first they try talking to both the teenagers and the person who called them, then they determine what needs to be done, then, if they determine the teens need to leave, they ask them to and only if they refuse, they use force. In the video, it goes from the police entering to cops throwing punches in a matter of seconds:

True, videos can be doctored (though I highly doubt this one was) and don’t always tell the whole story. That’s why SPVM brass and the Police Brotherhood are considering equipping all officers with cameras.

While I believe that all police interventions should be filmed, I’m not sure this is the way to do it. More specifically, I don’t think this should be the first step.

Everybody already has the right to record police actions, though you wouldn’t know it talking to some cops. I’ve personally witnessed an SPVM officer tell someone that he can’t film him only to be corrected by a supervisor later on. Countless activists and independent media had police tell them they couldn’t film during the student protests. More recently, officer Gauthier didn’t seem aware that the man behind the camera had every right to record his intervention with the homeless man.

Those are just a few examples of Montreal Police either acting out of ignorance of citizens’ rights or knowingly lying about them, but there are countless more. This needs to stop before progress can be made.

First, every person needs to know their rights. Privacy Lawyer has a good primer, the gist of it is that we can film the police anywhere, any time with a few exceptions. Next, the SPVM needs to teach their officers that people have a right to film them at work and those people are, in fact, their bosses. Then, only once the culture has been changed, can we talk about the SPVM putting cameras on cops that may help show a more complete picture of what happened.

Before we equip our police with cameras, we should equip them with basic knowledge that anyone can film them and it’s perfectly okay.

* Top image by Jay Manafest

Well, it’s not the kind of video that will warm your heart on such a cold day, but it may just make your blood boil. With the windchill, it’s currently -40 degrees in Montreal, but that didn’t stop SPVM officer Gauthier from threatening to tie a homeless man to a poll outside for an hour.

In this video, originally shared on Facebook by Adis Simidzija, we don’t get the beginning of the altercation, but we do hear Gauthier saying that the man, clearly not well clothed for the weather, was being aggressive. Then we get the threat, that if he doesn’t stop, Gauthier will tie him to a poll outside for an hour.

Regardless of what the man was doing (except killing someone, which he clearly wasn’t), threatening to tie someone up outside in this weather is akin to threatening to beat him up or shoot him. It is an inexcusable threat of cruel violence by this officer.

See for yourself:

Earlier this evening, Montreal police took down and destroyed a tipi that activists had set up as part of the Idle No More Global Day of Action. According to witnesses, police did not attempt any negotiations and moved into the camp, pushing aside a group of Aboriginal women who had surrounded the tipi.

“It was one of the most random and arbitrary attacks on an extremely peaceful event that I have seen,” said protester Katie Nelson, “nevermind disrespectful and extremely insensitive to First Nations.”

In the following audio clip recorded by Nelson, SPVM officer Arruda claims that they are afraid the event would turn into another Occupy Montreal and asks “do you think the City of Montreal cares…” without finishing his question.

While the irony of equating native protesters to occupiers when non-Aboriginals are in fact the ones that have been doing the occupying for centuries seems lost on Arruda, the question he never finished is one we should be asking. Does the city or moreover the people in it care about the First Nations and how the police behave at demonstrations? We can only hope so.

Give it a listen:

* Photo by Katie Nelson via Twitter

Some cops think they’re above the laws they are charged with enforcing—that’s nothing new. But now it looks like the Montreal Police force (SPVM) thinks it’s above the unwritten laws of celebrity and fame.

Warhol said that everyone gets 15 minutes in the spotlight. And Stéfanie Trudeau, better known as Constable 728, used those up well before the Maple Spring went on its summer break. So why did she turn up again in the news mid-October?

Because the SPVM let her. They let a cop who got caught on video unloading pepper spray for no reason on peaceful protesters twice keep her job.

Despite the video spreading (over 600 000 views for a Quebec-centered story is local viral), they didn’t stick her behind a desk. They kept her in the field, patrolling the Plateau.

You’d think, at the very least, they would re-assign a cop, who clearly had issues with protesters, to a beat where there weren’t so many red squares among the citizens she was charged with protecting. With a whole island, that includes suburbs, quiet affluent neighbourhoods and working class areas where everyone is too busy working to protest, they threw her in with the artists and political activists.

Are the SPVM brass really surprised that she put some guy in a chokehold in his own house for merely holding the door open for a friend who happened to have an open beer? Are they really surprised that her report to her superior contained references to artists and red squares living upstairs whom she referred to as guitar picking rats?

They can’t be. But they will try and seem like they’re dealing with it. She’s been suspended. “Charges” against the dude she put in a chokehold and others there that night have now been dropped.

That’s it, the one bad apple in the force has been dealt with. All the abuses the force is accused of—the kettling, declaring protests illegal without any violence coming from the protesters, attacking student media—is now dealt with. It was 728’s fault and now she’s gone…we good now?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the cops wanted something like this to happen and helped it along with bad decisions. I’m only implying it.

Remember the UC Davis security guard who became famous as the pepper spray cop? He spawned many a meme but did you ever hear of him doing anything since? No, because they got rid of him. Yes, 728’s fame came in the middle of a much bigger event, the Maple Spring, but the pepper spray cop hit his stride during Occupy, and he’s gone.

Yes, the Montreal Police Brotherhood is a powerful organization notorious for protecting its own, but the SPVM brass are dealing with 728 now regardless of what the union has to say—so it stands to reason they could have prevented what happened last week, too. Instead the SPVM chose not to, they chose to put her back in a place where she could repeat.

They risked increasing her 15 minutes and created circumstances where that outcome was more of a likelihood than a possibility. I wonder what they’ll try when her time in the spotlight is finally up.

* Images: la-rabia-del-pueblo.tumblr.com, tagtele.com