Protesters in Montreal are no longer required to provide a route to police. The Quebec Superior Court invalidated section 2.1 of Municipal Bylaw P-6 which was added at the height of the Maple Spring student protests in 2012 by then-Mayor Gerald Tremblay.

Over the past few years, Montreal Police (SPVM) used this provision to kettle and ticket protesters and to stop marches minutes after they started. The annual Anti-Police Brutality March being a frequent target.

The Quebec Superior Court had already invalidated Section 3.2 of the bylaw, the provision banning masks at protests, back in 2016. In the same ruling, the court put some restrictions on 2.1, but didn’t eliminate it entirely.

Not content with a partial victory, the plaintiffs, which included protest mascot Anarchopanda, decided to appeal. Today they won and the problematic parts of P-6 are gone and the court’s decision is effective immediately.

“Let’s not forget that this victory belongs to our comrades who take to the streets and risk police and judicial repression to fight for all our rights,” Sibel Ataogul, one of the lawyers fighting the appeal said in a Facebook post, adding: “Despite victories, judiciarisation is not the solution. Only the struggle pays.”

* Featured image by Chris Zacchia

Around 100 demonstrators gathered on March 15, at the intersection of Berri and Ontario streets, where Alain Magloire, a man who was homeless and mentally ill, was shot and killed by a member of the SPVM in February 2014. The demonstrators gathered to participate in the 19th annual anti-police brutality march, organized by the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP).

As announced on the Collective’s website, the demonstration was set to start at 3 p.m., however more than 40 police officers were already at the ready by half past two.

Once the clock hit 3 p.m. SPVM announced that the demonstration was actually legal, given that the location of the demo was disclosed to the police before hand. However, the SPVM also declared that marching would NOT be tolerated, as a clear itinerary was not provided.

Under municipal by-law P-6, groups wishing to organize marches must provide their itinerary to the police at least 24 hours in advance; otherwise the participants risk being fined for up to $638.

Less than ten minutes after the announcement, the demonstrators tried to march westwards on Ontario, but were forced to change their path since the police had already blocked the street. The group then attempted to march north on Berri, at which point – less than 20 minutes after declaring the demo legal – the SPVM announced that the demonstration had become illegal.

Riot police then trapped the demonstrators at the underpass nearby, where they were kettled for the rest of the protest. Two student journalists from Concordia’s The Link were also among those who were kettled. In the meanwhile, two other demos took place, one on the corner of Maisonneuve and Berri, another on St Laurent.

Not including the kettling, a total of 95 people were arrested, 92 of whom were arrested under article 500.1 of the Highway Safety Code, which makes it illegal to occupy the roadway so as to obstruct vehicular traffic. All three of the demos were finished by 5:30 p.m.

If anything, today’s march showed that the police will keep on clamping down on people attempting to live their right to peaceful demonstration. Just think about it for a second. There were more police officers at the anti-police brutality protest than there were demonstrators. Well, we’ll see what the future holds. On March 22, at the same day as Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, theCollective Opposed to Police Brutality is planning on holding another similar march. Montreal’s mayor Denis Coderre has already declared that he will not tolerate this. We shall see.

Click on the image below to open the gallery. All photography by Cem Ertekin.

Anti-Police Brutality MarchAnti-Police Brutality March

 

So today, the good ol’ Anarchopanda made a Facebook post that might signify the beginning of the end of bylaw P-6. Here’s a rough (very rough maybe) translation of what he’s written for our anglo readers.

“Judge Randall Richmond of the Municipal Court of Montreal made a decision regarding the trial of those people, who were defending themselves in court after being arrested on March 22, 2013 for violating article 2.1 of Bylaw P-6 (i.e. not providing an itinerary). The judge said:

Article 2.1 of P-6 does not constitute a violation,

Even if article 2.1 of P-6 did constitute a violation, the violation should have constrained the demonstration. Given that nothing in the evidence shows that the accused were the organizers of the demonstration, there is no link between the detainees and the violation of the article.

The police officers who have testified have written tickets for the detainee, without notifying them that they had done so, which constitutes a false declaration.

Plus, some other critiques about the command structure of the SPVM.

Thanks to Lynda Khelil for the info!”

*** UPDATE: The full text of the decision has been released. You can download it as a PDF (2MB). In total, 16 people were acquitted. We will be publishing commentary and analysis in the next few days.

This is interesting news indeed! It’s still not the kind of decision we’re hoping for (i.e. P-6 is actually unconstitutional), but it’s a start, we might say. What do you think?

The following is an excerpt from a featured interview with mayoral candidate and Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron by FTB contributor Taylor Noakes which you can expect to see in full next week. Given that Bergeron’s interview with Radio X this past Saturday raised many eyebrows on the left, we are releasing his responses to two questions which address what he said on the air (along with a French translation because of francophone interest in the topic).

Forget the Box: In a recent interview some comments you made about the annual police brutality march and the use of municipal bylaw P-6 left some confused about your position. I know that your party twice moved motions, which were defeated by your opponents on council, to repeal the controversial portions of P-6, those that mirrored the now repealed Law 12, and you’ve been quite clear in the past that you consider P-6 to be a violation of basic civil liberties. Has your position changed?

Richard Bergeron: No. Allow me to be crystal clear: myself, my party, we are opposed to the 2012 additions to P-6, we have always opposed them, and we will continue to oppose them. Our position has not changed. There is no place for these type of draconian restrictions on the right to peaceful protest in a democratic society. A Projet Montreal administration will move swiftly to repeal these sections of P-6.

FTB: Now let’s move on to the question of the annual police brutality march. What’s your position on that?

Bergeron: The question of the police brutality march is a difficult one, because of the regularity with which it descends into violence and chaos. Previous mayors have ignored it, allowed it to happen and then held a press conference the next day to denounce the violence and score political points.

My approach would be quite different. I would sit down with the organizers, open a dialogue, and make sure that their protest is able to unfold without restriction, but in a way which respects public space and the importance of maintaining a safe and secure environment for all.

My administration would do everything in our power to ensure that protests unfold without violence or provocation. In the case that we fail, we will direct police to target those who have carried out criminal acts, and charge them under the law. It is important, when it comes to protest, that our police force targets the guilty, and does not criminalize an entire class of people for the crimes of a handful among them.

I don’t believe, as my opponents seem to, that we can either have the right to protest, or safe streets, but not both. I believe that a balance can be struck which respects the rights of all citizens. Striking that balance is the role of a responsible government, and it is the role I see for my administration.

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Forget the Box: Dans une interview récente, un commentaire que vous avez fait sur la question de la manifestation annuelle contre la brutalité policière a laissé certains perplexes. Je sais que votre parti a fait deux propositions – défaites – pour abroger les dispositions controversées de P-6, celles qui rappelaient la loi 12, maintenant abrogée. Dans le passé, vous avez clairement déclaré que vous considériez que le règlement P-6 violait les libertés fondamentales. Est-ce que vous avez changé d’avis?

Bergeron: Non. Je vais être clair : mon parti et moi sommes opposés aux amendements de 2012 à P-6, nous l’avons toujours été et nous continuerons de nous y opposer. Notre position n’a pas changé. Il n’y a pas de place pour ces restrictions draconiennes au droit de manifester dans une société démocratique. Une administration de Projet Montréal agira rapidement pour abroger ces amendements.

FTB: Parlons maintenant de la question de la manifestation contre la brutalité policière. Quelle est votre position à ce sujet?

Bergeron: La question de la manifestation contre la brutalité policière est complexe, compte tenu qu’elle dégénère régulièrement dans la violence et le chaos. Les maires précédents ont ignoré ce problème, ont permis qu’il arrive et ont tenu une conférence de presse le lendemain pour dénoncer la violence et marquer des points politiques.

Mon approche serait différente. Je m’assiérais avec les organisateurs, je dialoguerais et je m’assurerais que la manifestation puisse être tenue sans restriction, mais dans le respect du bien public et de l’importance du maintien d’un environnement sécuritaire pour tous.

Mon administration ferait tout en son pouvoir pour s’assurer que les manifestations aient lieu sans violence ou provocation. Si nous échouons, nous demanderons à la police de cibler ceux qui ont commis des actes criminels et les condamner en conséquence. Il est important, dans ce contexte, que la police cible ceux qui sont coupables, sans criminaliser tout un groupe pour des délits isolés.

Je ne crois pas, contrairement à mes adversaires, que l’on peut défendre le droit de manifester, ou des rues sécuritaires, mais pas les deux. Je crois que l’on peut trouver un juste milieu pour respecter les droits de tous les citoyens. Trouver ce compromis est le rôle d’un gouvernement responsable, et ce sera le rôle de mon administration.