The RCMP is investigating an upsetting incident in Surrey (BC), where a 16 year-old black girl was handcuffed and taken down in a case of “mistaken identity”. Ruth and Gary Augustine told CBC that they have lodged a formal public complaint on behalf of their daughter, who prefers not to be named in order to avoid harassment on social media.

The teenager says she was waiting at the Newton bus loop last Friday, on her way to a job interview, when two Mounties showed up and started asking her questions. They were apparently looking for someone wanted under the Mental Health Act. She says that she started backing away when they called her a “high-risk mental health patient”. She soon found herself on the ground under the two officers, with her hands behind her back. That’s when a bystander, going by the Facebook name of Ash Hotti, started filming:

The teenager can be heard crying and cursing, shouting “My name is not LaToya, ask me what my name is!”

When one of the officers realizes that the bystander is filming, he threatens to seize the phone as evidence. The bystander demands that the officer explains how it constitutes evidence.

“This is fucking wrong, be ashamed of yourselves!” Hotti later says, assuring the teen: “Don’t worry I got everything on film.”

“Yeah, you can send it to her phone and they’ll get charged,” suggests a second bystander.

When the officers checked the girl’s purse for ID, they found that they had the wrong person. They uncuffed her and left. The teenager told CTV news that neither officers asked her for ID before they tackled her, but that she would have complied if they did.

The Surrey RCMP have issued a statement on Wednesday after the family lodged a public complaint.

“Information was received regarding an individual who was wanted on a Mental Health Act warrant. There were concerns for this individual’s health, safety, and well-being. Officers subsequently located someone matching the description and apprehended a female at this location. Once it was learned that it was not the correct person, the 16-year-old female was released immediately,” stated the letter.

They deemed the situation “extremely unfortunate” and assured that senior investigators are in contact with the family. “We are certainly mindful of her young age and how upsetting this was for her and her family” said Superintendent and Operation officer Ed Boettcher. “I can assure you that we have resources dedicated to investigating the incident.”

People of colour too often misidentified

According to the director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Pho Niemi, mistaken identity cases are woefully common, especially for people of colour. “We get a case like that every year,” the director said.

Why? Police descriptions of suspects tend to be a lot less detailed when they’re not about Caucasians. “Almost every time, the description is too broad and race becomes a predominant factor,” says Niemi.

If this was the case in Surrey, he thinks the family should ask for more than an apology and pursue legal action.

“If the police officers were looking only for a young black woman, then they would be in trouble with the law in terms of discrimination,” Niemi affirmed. “It opens up every young black woman in the area to a police arrest and detention.”

Just last February, a man named Errol Burke was held at gunpoint and arrested while trying to buy milk in Montreal, before the police realized they had the wrong man.

Niemi, who has also worked for the Quebec Human Rights Commission, is further concerned about how the officers intervened with a person they thought to be a high-risk mental health patient. He questions whether the officers are trained to handle such cases.

“When one intervenes with a person known to have mental health issues,” he remarked, “there is a way to intervene in order to reduce the likelihood of breaching that person’s civil rights.”

A 20 year old black man died in the hands of police in my neighborhood on Tuesday night. His name is Wardel Davis, say it out loud. His friends called him Meech.

The facts are not clear on what happened exactly but he is dead. He was coming out of a known drug house “they” say and when confronted he tried to run. He tried to run because he knew what would happen to him if they caught him.

Officers Nicholas J. Parisi and Todd C. McAlister (both officers with 10+ years on the force) were able to chase down Davis and place him into custody. After taking him down he mysteriously stopped breathing. They immediately uncuffed him and tried CPR to revive him but he passed away shortly after at Buffalo General Hospital.

This is an issue of out racist classist system smashing down on the already battered youth. One officer was black and the other was white, they were not in uniform, walking the neighborhood to “serve and protect” right?

Why is he is dead? What did he do to warrant being stopped in the first place? He was acting “suspicious” and they are not saying how long the fight was.

A lot of details have not been released. Police said no shots were fired and no taser or other implements were used against him.

The state attorney general is investigating this case and both officers are now on administrative leave. I hope justice is served, but I don’t see that happening.. As I type this people are chanting BLACK LIVES MATTER outside of the police station next door. Shit must hit the fan!

You cannot condemn someone for being a victim of circumstance, born into a society that holds you down from birth. Wardel Davis had already lost both of his parents, his girlfriend and grandmother are now left behind with an empty void where their loved one used to be.

The Buffalo News talked to his girlfriend and the article says that he was about to go to jail for drug charges the next day due to a missed court appearance. She said that she would have been ok with visiting him in jail but it is NOT ok that he is dead.

I did not personally know Wardel Davis but I know he should still be alive right now. I do not have all of the facts and cannot make assumptions, but I do know one thing: more people will die if this system does not change.

I know all cops aren’t bad, I am not even saying that these specific cops are bad, it may have just been an arrest gone wrong. But what I am saying is that they did not have the right to put this boy in that situation to begin with.

Even though one of the officers was black that doesn’t mean racial profiling wasn’t at play here. He is part of a police state that targets people of color every single day. There is a system of radical inequality in place. The war on drugs is the war on poor young black men, period. BLACK LIVES MATTER! WARDEL DAVIS MATTERS!

I am furious but this is not about me. This is about the terrible state of the world that we live in. Drilling also started back up for the Dakota Access Pipeline, Betsey Devos is in charge of education, and Cheeto satan is still the president.

Everything sucks, but that doesn’t mean stop fighting back. It’s difficult to write about fun times and raunchy sex stuff when you are constantly inundated with reality. Reality is death, it is racist, it is all about money.

I was on a bar dancing down the street as this boy died in the arms of authority. It is hard for me to find clarity in this, I need to help, in a more physical way that making art or giving hot coco to protesters. I know I am white, therefore I have less to fear, that is a privilege that I was born with. My skin color has offered me mobility and safety that others do not have.

White supremacy must end now! Call out people you know! Call yourself out! It is uncomfortable to stomp out hate when it lives within you. Young, black men are being targeted and picked off by the police and it must stop!

One of my best friends is a young, gay, black man who lives right around the corner. He has so much to be afraid of and that’s not fucking fair. If I were him I would be terrified to leave the house, but he stands with his head held proud.

We have to realize that all of us need to stand together in solidarity to make sure that nobody is afraid. All people must take part in the movement to end these lynchings. We need to dismantle a hate that has been breeding for too many years.

Even the headlines are terrible, none of them mentioned that he was only 20, all of them said MAN. This happens with all cases of racial injustice! These young kids are being called men in headlines to make it slightly more palatable. Nobody wants to hear about kids dying so let’s call them men.

This crime was not just in my country, not just my state, not even just my city, it was my street, my neighborhood, I probably ran into this kid a hundred times without knowing who he was.

Let’s not forget about India Cummings too, she died in Buffalo Police hands at the Erie County Holding Center, BPD needs some serious training. We need to start with community involvement. We need to take back the night, a grassroots community direct action against oppression.

I remember the anti-rape task force taking to the streets, but we have to keep more than just the rapists and robbers in check now. It’s the cops too!

Whenever you see an interaction with cops and ANYONE (but especially if they are of a targeted race or religion, such as African Americans or Muslims) PAY ATTENTION! Film it! Say something out loud while it’s happening.

We need to make sure that everyone feels safe to leave their house. We need to have their backs! Solidarity and direct action are needed desperately.

A safety pin is not the same as a hand on the back to say you are here and nobody will fuck with you on my watch! We need to be more educated about racism.

If you have children talk to them about race. Don’t wait until they see a hate crime at school to engage them and make a difference. It is also so important to get off your ass and protest. Make art, informational zines, articles, and share the work of others!

Activism is more than just a hashtag or sharing this article. It is being present, and standing up for justice.

Forty police officers will be equipped with body cameras this autumn in the Montreal boroughs of Montréal-Nord, Plateau Mont-Royal and Lachine. This is the second phase of the SPVM’s portable camera pilot project.

The first phase saw around 30 SPVM agents wearing body cams in public locations (mostly in the metro) where they frequently intervened in civil violations.

The pilot project is a test run, limited in numbers and time. According to Journal Métro, an unspecified number of officers will wear body cameras starting September 29th and 12 officers in Montréal-Nord will do the same as of October 15th. Lachine is also going to participate.

The total number of officers involved in the project will be around forty. All cameras will be removed in February 2017. The SPVM will then proceed to public consultations to hear what citizens think of the experiment.

Police organizations hope that the installation of body cameras will provide court evidence and give a fuller picture than the “partial” videos circulating on social media. Those who are worried by police abuse hope it will improve accountability and transparency in law enforcement.

The Minister of Public Safety approved the project and officially designated the SPVM as the leader of the pilot experiment for the province, according to the SPVM’s website. In other words, the results will be communicated to the Ministry of Public Safety and possibly serve as inspiration for similar projects across the province.*

How it works

The SPVM officers with body cameras will be identified by special badges. They also must verbally warn people that they are being filmed as soon as possible.  Officers can deactivate or deviate the camera at the demand of a person who wants to protect her privacy, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Footage of an intervention will be accessible to courts and to the police officers, once they have submitted their general report about the filmed intervention. Any person or media who wants to see the footage can make a demand through the provincial Access to Information law.

The cameras will not be rolling the entire time. The officers wearing them will be responsible for starting the recording when the “rules of engagement are met”, which means before an intervention. The SPVM website says that the deactivation of the camera should be an exceptional measure only, but there is no clear rule about what constitutes an exceptional situation. A spokesperson for the SPVM, contacted by phone, specified that strip-searches will never be filmed. Officers can also choose to stop recording in order to de-escalate a conflict with a subject who doesn’t want to be filmed. Although there is no formal rule, “the key words to take into consideration are the dignity and vulnerability of the citizens”.*

Available data and the importance of correct usage

Although this is the first initiative of the sort in the province, similar projects were implemented elsewhere in Canada, while some American police forces have adopted body cameras on a definitive basis.

The city of Victoria in BC started the first Canadian project in 2009. Toronto Police have been running one for just about a year and used their experience to give a few pointers to the SPVM.

Calgary also started a pilot project in November, with the confessed ambition of becoming the first Canadian city whose police force is fully equipped with body cameras. However, Calgary’s enthusiasm and program were cut short due to equipment problems and concerns over its cost.

The cost of the equipment remains one of the major concerns for all cities. Toronto estimates that getting body cams on roughly 3000 officers could cost around $85 million over 10 years.

Despite this, the projects have all yielded some very positive results. Research across US and Canada showed that cameras seem to reduce violence from both citizens and police officers. In some cases, the usage of force by police decreased by 60% when they were wearing the cams.

A study published in September 2015 examined 3 698 field reports in Mesa, Arizona to compare the situations with body cameras and situations with no body cameras. They found that officers with cams performed fewer Stop-and-Frisks and fewer arrests, but initiated interaction with citizens more often than their counterparts.

Researchers at Cambridge and RAND Europe brought an important nuance to the positive results with a study on 2122 officers across the U.S. and U.K.

Their results were puzzling as they seemed to associate the use of body cameras with an increase in violent interactions. However deeper analysis revealed that the increase in violence was associated with officers using the cameras at their own discretion.

The officers were instructed to keep the cameras on at all times and to immediately warn subjects that they were filmed. When those rules were followed, use of force decreased by 37% on average.  When they weren’t, the use of force was significantly more frequent than when there was no camera at all.

Recent laws around the accessibility of these footage have also raised concerns. As this WIRED article nicely explains, filming police but not allowing the public to see the footage is becoming more and more frequent. That is not what transparency is.

In other words, body cameras work if their use is properly supervised and regulated. But leaving too much discretionary power to the officers wearing them can have the opposite effect.

Police officers want them

The Fraternité des Policiers de Montréal has been advocating for the use of body cameras since 2013.  The idea came in the aftermath of the student protests of 2012, when citizens started routinely filming police interventions. Many such videos made the rounds on social media, arousing public scrutiny and criticism of police methods.

Yves Francoeur, president of the Fraternité des Policiers de Montréal, had previously stated that his organization was “always favorable to this” since they would rather have their own footage then the “partially taken videos” often filmed on smart phones. Other groups of police officers, including the Quebec City Fraternity and the SQ syndicate, have expressed their support for similar reasons.

The SPVM says that the project’s two primary goals are increasing the transparency of police interventions and ameliorating the public’s trust in the police service.

* The article was updated after SPVM’s public relations team called back with additional information on September 21st.

Around 300 people gathered in Montreal on Wednesday to protest police treatment of black people, both here and in the US. Over a thousand people have announced their intention to participate in a similar event this Saturday. The Black Lives Matter movement might be finally picking up momentum in Montreal.

Protesters met in Nelson Mandela Park on Wednesday, responding to the call of the Black Coalition of Quebec. The event was organised in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded last week in the United-States.

It was partly in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by the police in the space of a couple of days. Several people payed tribute to them and to the five police officers killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.

It was also meant to call attention to the way Montreal’s black community is treated by the police. Several speakers stood up on a pick-nick table to address the crowd; some were planned, some were spontaneous. A peaceful march followed and no incidents were reported.

If you missed all of this, you will have another occasion to show your support, this Saturday in Cabot Square. A new Montreal NGO, Twese, is inviting people to gather there at 2pm “to honour the lives lost and express our rejection of police brutality and any kind of racial prejudice.”

Cabot Square is a historically and socially meaningful place for indigenous people in Montreal. Co-founder of Twese Anne-Sophie Tzeuton says that the organisers are aware of the importance of Cabot Square to First Nations and that they want to honour it.

Police brutality and discrimination are also “a huge problem” for First Nations, she noted, “of course we intend to talk about it and we hope many will attend.”

Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society
Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society

The main objective of Saturday’s event, aside from rallying people to the cause, is “to offer concrete solutions that we can all apply to our daily lives.” Several speakers will take the microphone to that effect. Spoken word performances and other artistic tributes to lives lost in police shootings are also planned.

Tzeuton is happy with the unexpected popularity of the event on Facebook, but she fears that all this attention won’t last. “It often happens, after a tragedy: there is a lot of media attention at once, but it passes and then we forget.”

She hopes the current momentum can be used to discuss lasting solutions before the hype dies down.

Twese (“everybody” in Kinyarwanda) describes itself as a platform encouraging the diasporas to exchange ideas and further a collective reflection about various topics. It was created this summer by four young black women who have played active roles in black student associations in McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal.

Discussing Canadian Racism

Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety Martin Coiteux reacted amiably to Wednesday’s protest: “We have to be very careful to protect the rights of all minorities in Quebec so I support people who are demonstrating for having equality of rights and we are completely in solidarity with what happened.”

However, according to him, “the situation here is, fortunately, very different to the United States.” He insisted on the importance of preserving “our model here of peaceful coexistence.”

How Different is it Really?

In 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that native people were alarmingly overrepresented in federal jails. In 2016, aboriginal youth made up 41% of people entering the justice system, despite representing less than 7% of the overall population.

Quebec’s commission of human rights officially recognizes that police forces practice racial profiling since 2010. An internal investigation published that year by the SPVM revealed that in 2006-2007, in Montréal-Nord and Saint-Michel,41% of young black men had had their identity checked, compared to 6% of young white men. The study also found that black people were more often carded for “vague” motives.

Just a couple of months ago, a black man named Jean-Pierre Bony was killed by the police in Montréal-Nord during a drug raid. Bony was shot in the head with a plastic projectile in front of the bar where the raid was conducted. He died in the hospital four days later.

“The only difference between Jean-Pierre Bony and what we’ve been seeing in the U.S is that there was no camera,” remarked Will Prosper, an ex-cop turned black rights activist, in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.

Many Canadians, like Coiteux, feel that the kind of systemic racism observed in the United-States doesn’t happen in Canada. According to Tzeuton, those claims are most often made by people who are racially or socioeconomically privileged.

“It is very easy for people who are not living those problems to claim they don’t exist.”

* Featured image of the April 6th Montreal North protest following the police killing of Jean-Pierre Bony by Gerry Lauzon (creative commons)

The number of pipeline proposals for Northwest BC that big oil companies have been making is astounding. Enbridge Pipeline, PNG Pipeline Looping Project, Pacific Northern Gas, Pacific Trails Pipeline, Coastal GasLink, Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project… Some resources say there’s at least 11 of these proposals.

The environmental concerns of building pipelines through Canada’s ‘untouched’ lands aside, most of these projects encroach upon the unceded territories of Indigenous people, namely the Wet’suwet’en. For several years, the Unist’ot’en, a clan of Wet’suwet’en, have been struggling to keep the oil companies away from their territories. They have been successful so far; however, the RCMP has been intensifying its efforts to end their resistance.

Along with volunteers, the Unist’ot’en have set up a camp in the territory, setting up checkpoints all around it. They practice free prior and informed consent protocols, which essentially means that people at the checkpoints will ask any visitors their purpose of visit and what they’re bringing into the territory – like border control. If the hereditary chiefs do not approve the visitors, then they’re not allowed in the territory.

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A protestor detained by the SPVM as bystanders watch, July 24. Photo by Cem Ertekin

This is an ongoing struggle and, recently, after the RCMP once again tried to enter the camp but was refused, the campers have made a call out for solidarity demonstrations. It was following this that an “emergency demo” was organized to be held on July 24 in front of the Roddick Gates of McGill University, at the intersection of Sherbrooke and McGill College.

Around 20 demonstrators, five members of alternative media, and ten police cars showed up. Once the organizers believed that a critical mass was reached, the group started to march westward on Sherbrooke. Immediately afterwards, the police cars started to follow them, announcing that the protest was illegal, probably under P-6, but also – the recently popular – Highway Security Code article 500.1.

The group turned left on Mansfield, stopped in front of the CIBC building and gave a speech on why they were gathered. In a pamphlet handed out to passersby, the organizers say that “the situation at the Unist’ot’en camp in so-called British Columbia (B.C.) is moving towards an escalation point.”

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SPVM officer going through the bag of a detained protester, July 24. Photo by Cem Ertekin

They also called for justice for victims of police brutality, namely Sandra Bland and Paul Castaway. “We condemn the police’s differential targeting of the marginalized, racialized and low-income communities across Turtle Island,” they said.

After that, the group continued marching south on Mansfield, and turned west at Maisonneuve. They were able to march until Stanley, at which point one of the police cars overtook the group by going through the bike lane and blocking the street. Surely enough, that left the group completely surrounded in a mini-kettle.

According to The Montreal Gazette, the SPVM says that one person was arrested and eight were ticketed. One of the organizers who wished to remain anonymous, however, told me that six were arrested and three were ticketed. I also saw more than one person being hauled off in a police car; but, to be fair, I did hear the remnants of the group talking about people being released.

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Journalist Matt D’Amours being held by an SPVM officer, July 24. Photo by Cem Ertekin.

It’s insane, on its own, that people were arrested like that in the middle of the street and ticketed for protesting, but one of the people who got a ticket for being there was Matt D’Amours of Concordia’s The Link and a member of 99%Media. Matt was livestreaming the event until it was abruptly cut off by an officer of SPVM.

The ticket says that Matt has “occupied a road used as an alternate route for traffic diverted from a public highway, by placing an obstacle, so as to obstruct vehicular traffic on the road without authorization.” The obstacle in question, apparently, is Matt’s person.

“I find it to be a slightly dubious description of the offence,” Matt said. “And also, my name has been misspelt on this ticket.”

“Enough is enough” was the message of the silent demonstration on June 8th. More than 30 demonstrators met in front of the SPVM headquarters in Downtown Montreal to express their frustration with police violence and brutality. Among the participants were people who had been brutalized by the police – one still had his arm in a cast.

Initially, the group met on the sidewalk in front of the Montreal Maison Symphonique. Twenty or so minutes after 6 p.m. officers from across the street came by and announced that they would respect the “protestors’ right to demonstrate,” but they would not “tolerate any criminal activity or the obstruction of traffic.”

Afterwards,  the demonstrators voted to move across the street and sit directly in front of SPVM’s doors; where a dozen or so officers were blocking entrance. Silently and peacefully, the protestors sat down right in front of the officers – for almost four hours.

Check out our report below to hear more about and from the protest. In addition, you can see photos from the event, as well.

On April 12, 25-year-old Freddie Gray “made eye contact” with a Baltimore police officer. Within minutes, Gray was brutalized, “twisted into a pretzel,“which caused his spinal cord to snap, and was subsequently tossed into the back of a police cage. Despite screaming in pain, the police denied Gray medical attention. He lapsed into a coma and died one week later on April 19.

Freddie Gray would’ve been just another statistic of one more Black male “criminal” that died a justifiable, though “tragic” and “unfortunate” death at the hands of hard working cops because he “resisted arrest,” “disobeyed the commands of law enforcement” or had “reached for the officer’s weapon.” However, in the Information Age of social media, a bystander filmed the event and, once again, the official story collapsed and the lies of the police were exposed.

Anger among the majority Black and working class population of Baltimore erupted over the past week culminating in mass protests over the weekend which led to rioting on Monday, April 27. What began as peaceful processions from West Baltimore where Freddie Gray lived and was killed, turned into conflict once the procession reached Downtown. At Camden Yards before the start of the Baltimore Orioles game on Sunday, fights erupted when Black protesters were provoked by petite-bourgeois whites from suburban Baltimore County, who jeered the mostly Black protesters with racial epithets. As the marchers made their way to Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor, white hipsters and shoppers began to physically attack the the marchers. In the face of these provocations, Blacks reacted by throwing objects through the windows of restaurants and bars.

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“Drunk white people looking for a fight were part of the violence narrative last night. I have seen them jeer, spit, and throw things at protestors and try to hit them since wed when protest first went downtown.” – Brandon Soderberg

By Monday, the city’s Black high school students walked out of classes with the intention of having a festival of the oppressed. The police became the targets of reprisal. After decades of repression and brutality, the working class and poor youth of Baltimore decided that it was time to exact revenge. Pitched street battles took place in West Baltimore between rock and brick throwing youth and cops with tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields. The entire city came to a standstill with reports of the police shutting down the city transit system. By nightfall, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and deployed 5,000 National Guard troops to Baltimore. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Black woman, announced the implementation of 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. curfew starting from Tuesday April 28, in effect for one week.

What’s surprising to this writer is how long it has taken for the rebellion to take place. This writer is fairly familiar with Baltimore, having visited the city three times during the 1980s and 90s. Baltimore is a very unique city. It’s a Southern American city with a Northern industrial economic and political structure. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the country with its architecture and geography. Yet it is one of the most socially polarized cities in the world. It’s racial and class divisions reflect its Dixie-Yankee split personality.

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High school students walking out of class.

Most of the world knows Baltimore through the HBO series The Wire. The program is the most realistic portrayal of the economic, political, racial and social state of Baltimore. What makes The Wire unique is how the cops are presented as the villains and the drug dealers and gangsters presented as decent people forced by the decline of industrial capitalism into criminality.

The Wire is not the first time Hollywood has portrayed the brutality and corruption of the police and judicial system. …And Justice For All is a 1979 film with Al Pacino revealing the corruption of judges in Baltimore. For more than 35 years, Baltimore has been depicted as a cesspool of judicial and police corruption and violence.

The Baltimore riots are a belated and desperate response to decades of abuse of the Black working class and poor at the hands of the politicians, police and the courts. This isn’t about race. It’s about class. Baltimore a majority Black city with a Black mayor, police chief and mostly Black police force. This is about the death of American capitalism which offers no future to poor and working class youth of all races.

Der Kosmonaut is an international freelance journalist, poet, social commentator and political philosopher. A graduate of Radio News and Current Affairs from the National Broadcasting School in Brighton, UK, he has been a producer for CKUT News in Montreal, Radio Orange in Vienna. He was the political editor of The Age of Nepotism in Belgrade. As a poet Der Kosmonaut has been published in Vienna where was the winner of the Slam B Poetry Slam in June 2011. He maintains a blog der-kosmonaut.blogspot.com

Featured image by Patrick Semansky.

Yesterday like hundreds of fellow UQAM students, I occupied the J-A. De Sève building. Like hundreds of my fellow students, I occupied my university to send a simple and clear message to a megalomaniac and intransigent administration,.completely high on power administration; a dignified university; and a post-secondary educational institution that calls itself such belongs first and foremost to the students and the teachers.

Yesterday, I couldn’t have been prouder of being a UQAM student. I was proud of my fellow students, of the ecstatic sense of solidarity that filled the air, and of being part of it. Yesterday, I couldn’t have been prouder of my teachers, who stood arm in arm with us on the front lines and denounced the presence of anti-riot squads within our campus.

Applying to university many people look for prestige, for a name on a diploma. I applied to UQAM because UQAM fights, because education is more than just sitting in a classroom, because we learn as we struggle, as we fight together.

Today, the mainstream media, as per habit, will rain down blame and accusations on the students, those “ragged bunch of anarchists” and “masked terrorists” who rampaged and put to fire and sword our beloved university. There will be calls across the board to put an end to the “violence” and “intimidation.”

But let’s be clear here. Is there any violence that is symbolically or quantitatively more violent than that of university administration calling on riot-cops to club and charge their own students? Within a university, there isn’t greater violence than that of silencing dissident voices!

Certainly, however, there have been excesses at UQAM and that’s the excesses of the administration, that isn’t recognized by those it supposedly represents!

Like many in the past weeks, I have been discouraged and demoralized by the internal fighting that has plagued our movement, in particular surrounding the former executive of ASSÉ. This harmed the movement and the articulation of our message more than anything else.

Some have said we’re in need of a unifying moment, we found such a moment yesterday!

To all of those who don’t want to get involved, unfortunately you have no other choice – we collectively have no other choice. Either we take full repossession of our university – we re-take what is rightfully ours – or we capitulate at the feet of a logic of commodification that uses brute force to impose its world view. Either we uphold the democratic decisions of our student association, our student democracy, and the right for students to have a say in their education, or we lose democracy altogether!

To civil society, to those that are students, but not students of UQAM, to the workers, and in general, to those most affected by the austerity measures, do you not see the inequality of opportunity this government wants to impose on us? This struggle is yours as well!

This struggle belongs to all of those that believe in the “radical” idea that education and profit aren’t synonymous. They’re antithetical! This struggle belongs to those that believe that a university isn’t a factory, that we can aspire to more than being service-sector, minimum wage, 9 to 5, cubicle confined workers.

This struggle belongs to everyone who believes in the fundamental idea that some things are more important than “profit” – that people are more important than profit! Our struggle is a struggle to uphold one of the most fundamental freedoms and a guiding principle that should be laid at the foundation of every society: the principle that the transmission of knowledge should be non-merchandised, universally accessible to all regardless of your class, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your political beliefs, your religious beliefs.

If you believe in such things your place is alongside us, with us on the front lines.

We won’t give-up a centimeter, we will resist, we will overcome!

La lutte continue!

Photograph by Benjamin Prunty.

If one thing that can be said about this Conservative government, it’s that they are very tactful and savvy when it comes to selecting  picturesque Orwellian names for the proposed pieces of legislation they put before the house. The more exuberant the title, the more ludicrous the bill and perhaps the more terrifying the potential consequences of its passage.

Even in his wildest dreams, Orwell couldn’t have imagined some of the stuff emanating from the Ottawa bubble nowadays… A “FairElections Act that disemboweled the body of democracy, a First Nations Control of First Nations Education that completely disempowered First Nation communities and blackmailed them into accepting a white man’s education, and last but not least, Vic Toews infamous omnibus crime bill, Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act that was actually a cover to quell any ”Un-Harperish” activities.

But the Palme d’Or of newspeak goes to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander’s Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices. It isn’t for the feeble hearted.

Another thing that isn’t for the feeble-hearted was the the violence used against protesting students in front of Quebec’s national assembly last Thursday. The images of a canister-armed SPVQ officer shooting Naomi Trudeau-Tremblay in face from a distance of barely a meter or less, was horrifying.

A Tale of Two Barbarians

In response to all of this, a wired cacophony emerged on mainstream media within the past week. On one hand images of the reckless hoards of ”radical” student protest and the other the senseless violence of those that ”hate us,” those that ”hate liberty” and our most cherished principles and freedoms. Through the lens of the mainstream media civil society, the silent peaceful, idle, majority is caught between the menace of radical Islamists on one side and by radical anarchists–they use it as if it was pejorative– on the other.

When it comes to violence perpetrated by ”radical Islamists” that violence couldn’t be more heartfully condemned. Grandiose tirades and lyrical waxing are used to put the emphasis on the need to defend the ”values of occidental society” against barbarian practices. We’ve since yesterday extended our mission to make sure ”barbarism” and obscurantism won’t engulf the Middle East. Yet another chapter of the West bring the light of civilization, by way of the lightning of aerial bombardment, to the dark corners of the globe!

On the other hand there’s the ”good” violence, the violence used to protect civil society and the silent majority from within. The violence that was used in such an exaggerated manner by law enforcement in Quebec City and Montreal in the past week.

The Silent Majority?

Once again in name of the silent majority of hard working families who agree with sacrificing their public services and their children’s future for the sake of rapacious tax credits to billionaire multinationals, the use of ”barbaric” tactics is justified. It’s self-evident that, for the silent majority to be heard, a little bit of violence is necessary.

What this underlines is that ”barbaric practices” are not the monopoly of exotic foreign cultures. With the perspective of what has happened within the past week, I do see barbaric practices, but they aren’t perpetrated in the some foreign land in the middle of sand-dunes, I do see inherently anti-women practices, but they aren’t perpetrated in the name of one god or another, except maybe the deity of balanced budgets and relentless growth.

When 18 year-old Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay was struck to the head with a gas canister, she was struck because she was protesting something. She was struck because she was student, because she was women, because she refuted the austerity agenda that this government has put forward. She was struck because this government wanted her to be silent.

This practice of police brutality is a widespread one, a practice that has been put forward to quell any form of resistance towards the dogma of austerity. Every time an exaction is committed by police officers against peaceful demonstrators, every time dispersion tactics kill a protest, every time a Naomie, a Maxence, a young student, is brutalized, their physical integrity violated, because of their political opinions, every time their voices are silenced or we attempt to silence them, a victim is born, a victim of ‘terrorism’ of ‘barbaric practices. This begs the question: maybe the “real” barbarians are here, not overseas? Or at least maybe, in many ways, we are barbarians as well… One thing is sure, austerity is barbaric!

As for the notion of silent majority, that keyword that’s swung around right and left, used to justify everything and its contrary, here’s a newsflash: the silent majority isn’t constituted by those that are idle in the face of injustice, it’s those that stand-up and fight back and that are silenced for doing so that make-up the true ‘silent majority’.

The silent majority isn’t about those who are silent, rather it’s about those who are silenced.

See you in the streets!

A luta continua!

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

 

Yesterday, on November 25, more than 500 people gathered at the downtown campus of McGill University, to stand in solidarity with the on-going events in Ferguson, Missouri. The candlelight vigil was organized by the Black Students’ Network of McGill, after the Grand Jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.

At the beginning of the vigil, the organizers read out the names of Michael Brown, Treyvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Marcellus Francois, Sami Yetim, Sean Bell, among many more. What all these names have in common is that they have been targets of racial violence, or police brutality. After the names were read, the demonstrators stood in silence and remembrance for four minutes.

“We know it’s cold, we know it’s windy. But we hope that moments like this will create real change, and that we will be able to see it in our lifetimes,” said one of the organizers to the crowd. “We will not forget the names of those whom we have mentioned, and the countless other names that we have not.”

One of the demonstrators decided to share a poem with the crowd.

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Another demonstrator, who declared that her name was not important at this point, also addressed the crowd.

“Our initial reaction is not necessarily always anger, or outrage. It is fear. And that is something that we have to admit to ourselves. Last night, while everyone was watching the live cast, everyone was blogging about it, tweeting about it, facebooking about it, inboxing everybody, inboxing each other, and I just stood there in front of the screen and cried. I cried this time, and I cried last time. Yes, a life was lost, but there was no justice served. Which means, that now it is basically open season on our asses. It really is. And I said this last year, and no one listened, and I don’t want to have to be here next year to remind you of that.”

You can listen to the rest of her speech here.

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The vigil ended with the demonstrators singing Amazing Grace in memory of those who are no longer with us.

 

Montreal Vigil in Solidarity wMontreal Vigil in Solidarity w

Click on the picture above to open the gallery. All photography by Gerry Lauzon.

In the past few days I’ve written extensively about the current events engulfing the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. In my last article I went into the details of the case, trying to shed a little bit of light on the demagogic arguments that have been boasted right, left and centre by the mainstream American and Canadian media. As I stated, the specific events that led to Michael Brown’s death shouldn’t be for his namesake, for the sake of his family and loved ones and for the community of Ferguson in general, lost of sight in the intense media scrum that is unfolding before our eyes.

This being said, the events that are occurring in Ferguson have happened before and will happen again. Unfortunately in these times, many economically impoverished communities are being held at gun point by a morally corrupt system that perpetrates their submission and oppression, right across the United States and Canada, right across the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean, right across the globe.

As I stated in my previous article the protesters —I refuse to call them rioters because as was rightfully stated by many of the inhabitants of Ferguson, the protests in Ferguson aren’t ‘’riots’’— are calling for the end of inequality in the way they are treated by law enforcement, but know that it will only come when they will have succeeded in garnishing true economic equality.

Is it a coincidence that the media has portrayed as a riot every major protest challenging the economic status quo since the economic downturn of 2008? Aren’t there parallels in terms of police response and media portrayal to be drawn between the Occupy Wall Street movement —OWS— , the student strike of 2012 here in Quebec and the ‘’riots’’ in Ferguson?

Indeed there are. They are so blatantly apparent, they sting our eyes like a zephyr of tear gas. The question of police brutality and the gung ho militarization of police forces throughout the western world can only be fully understood when included into this bordered strategy of skimming any social movements for economic justice, of any traction.

democracy projectIn his most recent book, The Democracy Project, David Graeber’s main thesis is that democracy is, unlike the preconceived western idea, not a western cultural phenomenon. Quite to the contrary, democracy in itself is the product not of ancient Greek philosophers, but the result of people of various backgrounds coming together and trying to find consensus. Graeber’s thesis is that democracy’s natural habitat is found outside of the state apparatus. I would like to develop on this idea to include the notion that in the past few decades new robust forms of democracy have grown out of the conflict with the globalized neo-liberal form of capitalism enforced by the state.

It goes without saying that capitalism in its current form is completely at odds with democracy. The current form of capitalism within which we live cannot sustain democracy, for democracy can only exist among equals, or within some semblance of equality. Democracy is thus the antithesis of neo-liberalism, which wants to concentrate wealth and thus power within the hands of a few. Within such a framework democracy is bound to perish.

What does the OWS movement, the Quebec general student strike of 2012 and the events in Ferguson have common? They are movements that are at the forefront of defending our democratic rights and pushing for a greater enhancement of democracy. Fox News ran a story during this past week entitled “Forgetting MLK’s message”, lest we forget that Martin Luther King Jr died in Memphis fighting for economic justice. Martin Luther King Jr knew very well that democracy and civil rights were void, merely a nice gesture if the economic structure which had allowed the oppression of African-Americans for so many years wasn’t challenged. Ultimately he gave his life trying to make that message reverberate throughout America.

Why is there a militarization of police forces within this start of the 21st century? The answer is simple: because of inequality, political elites that have every interest in keeping things the way they are and every interest in maintaining the status-quo will not relinquish their power, and thus have to kill in the egg any such movements that calls for greater economic equality before they gain any margin of maneuver.

Not only are these movements fighting for a more democratic society, they are redefining the space for democracy as a system that isn’t about the wish or aspirations of a political elite and that doesn’t follow the tempo of electoral cycles, but rather is a tool of variable dimensions that magnifies the voices of those that aren’t heard within our current system.

Grabaer in his most recent work—maybe somewhat intentionally—provoked all the right wing and liberal media pundits by equating the OWS movement with the democratic inspirations of America’s first patriots. I not only think that Grabaer’s assertion is correct, but I would also like to extend this to all of the movements that fight for economic, social or environmental justice. The minutemen of the 21st century are to be found in the streets of Ferguson tonight.

A luta continua.

It might seem incredible, even improbable, but as I write this article right now there’s a no-fly zone over an American town. It’s rarely stated in the mainstream media, it’s pretty much under the wraps. Maybe because the term ‘no-fly zone’ has been linked for the past few years with some of the world’s worst conflicts such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine. This might hit the point home for the regular Joe watching the news that a suburb by the name of Ferguson in Missouri is undergoing an occupation – there are no other words to describe it – worthy of a war zone.

The killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown sparked the massive uprising that has been omnipresent on our TV screens for the past few days. I feel that it’s important to state Michael’s name time and time again, even though by now it has become a household one, because unfortunately too many in the media are either quick to slander him or as quick to try and overlook the fact that an 18 year old African-American has, once again, died at the hands of law enforcement.

Michael BrownIt is important to remember Michael Brown and the exact facts of his story and his short-lived life because recently many within the mainstream media have been trying to drag his name and reputation through the dirt, trying somehow to use the petty crime of the shoplifting some candy and snacks to justify the police’s horrendous crime of killing an unarmed 18 year old pedestrian.

But one thing must be clear: Michael Browns and Trevon Martins, there are hundreds of them, hundreds of martyrs of police enforcement, thousands of victims of police violence and hundreds of thousands of law abiding ‘’citizens’’ whose rights and liberties are trampled by those who supposedly are there to ‘’serve and protect’’ them.

Michael Brown’s shooting isn’t an isolated case, far from it. While, for the sake of his memory, it’s important to remember the individual aspects of the case, it is also important to place this specific case within a broader framework to understand why and how this occurred and what were the underlying forces that instigated such a horrific outcome.

It is only within this broader framework that the details of the shooting, that some would want the general public to forget, become centerpieces to understanding the social and economic discrimination that is paramount. Omitted from much of the ‘reporting from the ground is the institutional racism and the systemic economic inequality which created the space, the breeding grounds for such police brutality.

It’s not a coincidence, unfortunately, that Michael Brown was an African-American youth. It’s not a coincidence that Michael Brown, being an African-American youth, lived in community where an important percentage of people live under the poverty line. It’s not coincidental that a poor African-American youth by the name of Michael Brown was shot seven times in the back, his only crime that he was born on the wrong side of the tracks in the wrong neighborhood.

To disconnect the events that occurred in Ferguson in the past week from a general understanding of the underlying, silently killing, economical violence is to rob the reaction of the inhabitants of Ferguson of any traction, of any righteousness. And to rob the Ferguson riots of any righteousness is to sterilize them, to disassociate them from their primordial political demand, which is equality. At the heart of the Ferguson riots is the struggle for democracy in America.

michael brown shoplifting cnnMany within the right-wing media would like us to believe that ‘’the mob’ – as they so dearly call them – that are looting and burning, confronting the police, were waiting for this moment like some sort of Christmas in July. Somehow in their twisted rhetoric, riots such as these are just occasions to provoke havoc which completely deplete any sympathy we should have for the cause. Although it is undeniable that the majority of Ferguson residences are profoundly shocked and angry at the killing of Michael Brown, seeing things from that sole vantage point doesn’t render justice to their cause, either.

At play here are two diametrically opposed forces, first of all the riots are not directed at the police forces (the individuals behind the riot gear) per say. When interviewed, local residents are very clear in their demands. They won’t be satisfied with just an end to the violence against their youth, they are demanding an end the economic equality which is the main enforcer of police brutality. The police are seen symbolically by the majority of the population of Ferguson as the defenders of status-quo, of a system that is overtly racist, a system that allows such brutality to perpetrated not only in a flash spark of violence like the death of Michael Brown, but on a regular basis.

Media outlets such as Fox News and Sun News here in Canada are right to a certain extent in their coverage of the events. Except they get it wrong when it comes to which side is fighting to uphold the laws and democratic aspirations of the American state and which is looting and burning. Those who have set Ferguson ablaze aren’t the people that live there, rather it’s the ultra-militarized police force that undergoes no checks or balances, that is completely above all of the laws and the constitution, that can violate with all impunity the rights and liberties of common American citizens.

one bullet hashtag
Image: @MediatedReality on Twitter

Fox News, Sun News and the KKK may applaud the ‘”patriot”actions of the brave police officer that shot an unarmed 18 year old seven times in the back, but the true patriots here, the true minutemen, are those that are resisting an occupying army and the unequal and profound corrupt system they enforce. Such a system is the main suspect in the death of Michael Brown, a system which usually doesn’t offer such gruesome spectacles, but does nonetheless kill on a regular basis, not with bullets of steel, but with bullets in the form of green dollar bills.

* Top image: The Daily Banter

 

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for Rabble.ca where this post originally appeared.

This Wednesday we need your voice. We only need to borrow it for a few hours, and I promise you’ll enjoy its use. It needs to be raised in unison with others across the country and around the world.

Two events are happening Wednesday night that you need to be at, wherever you are. It just might be the most fun you’ve had all year.

It also might be the most important thing you do all year. If anyone doubted the severity of the situation in Quebec, and the urgent need for solidarity, this weekend’s events will put those doubts to rest.

Police actions over the weekend crossed a line, an even more significant one than that crossed by the reviled Bill 78. Across Montreal’s metro system, and especially at Parc Jean Drapeau, where the Formula 1 racetrack is located, police engaged in “preventative arrests”.

People were pulled off metros, denied access to a public park, searched, and in many cases arrested. Why? Because they were wearing a political symbol. A red square of solidarity with the student cause.

Or, in the words of a Montreal police officer to a Le Devoir reporter, a “revolutionary symbol.”

Many journalists were also denied access to the Park, as police tried to limit the public visibility of their repressive actions. However, the best account of what transpired was written by two courageous journalists with Montreal daily Le Devoir, who went undercover wearing red squares to see what would happen. The results of their experiment are hair raising, and must be read to be understood (English translation + French original).

In Montreal right now, you may be arrested en masse for participating in a peaceful demonstration. You may be stopped and searched, even arrested, for wearing a political symbol. You may be beaten in the street for no reason, as happened to two tourists a few days ago. You may end up with a concussion, broken ribs, bones and lacerations from batons. You may lose an eye, as has happened twice, or an ear. If you’re media, especially CUTV which has been broadcasting live from all the demonstrations, you may be specifically targeted, and have your camera broken repeatedly.

You no longer need do anything to find yourself a target of police violence and arrest. Simply expressing your dissent, through peaceful protest, or even the wearing of a symbol, is now enough to make you a target.

In the streets of Quebec our people bleed for the dream of a better world, or simply one where governments defend the common good, instead of selling it to the highest bidder. They are tired, dog tired, after almost fifty straight nights of marching. They are scared, reasonably so, of arrest, injury or worse.

But they continue. They do not give an inch. They fight this battle for themselves, but also for all of us. Quebec is the front line of a global struggle.

The brave souls here in Quebec need your solidarity. Can you spare an hour to give it to them?

This Wednesday night at 8 p.m., for the third straight week, people across Canada and around the world will join together and bang their pots and pans in the joyous exercise known here as casseroles. Last week over 125 communities participated, from Brussels to Montevideo, New York to Saltspring Island, Tatamagouche to Dawson City.

Go to the national Casseroles Night in Canada Facebook page and find your community! If you’re not on the list, start your own casseroles. Simply pick a central location, create a Facebook event, post it on the national page and share it with your friends. Then post your photos and videos on the national page so we can keep track of what happened where.

Beyond Wednesday, our next big Casseroles Night in Canada will take place on Friday the 22nd of June. Timed to coincide with the largest rally yet in Quebec, which may exceed half a million people, we are asking everyone to build toward large rallies on that day to send a strong message of support to Quebec.

Wednesday also marks the 13 Heroes national day of action against the federal budget. With the terrifying omnibus budget expected to pass early Thursday, LeadNow.ca has organized rallies at Conservative MP offices and support locations across the country at 5:30 p.m. They are calling on 13 Conservative MPs to break ranks and vote against the budget. Visit the 13 Heroes website to find your local action, or sign up to host one in your community.

As Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Brigette DePape, union leader Louis Roy and others said at a conference in Montreal this weekend, we need a common front against governments which are dismantling our democracy across the country.

So please, bring your casseroles to the 13 Heroes rallies, and bring your friends from 13 Heroes to the casseroles. Together we are strong, but as Raul Berbano of Latin American NGO Common Frontiers said this weekend: “We can’t start the revolution from Starbucks.”

So start by sharing this article, the Casseroles Facebook page and the 13 Heroes website far and wide. Then take your love and solidarity into the streets.

You won’t only be helping Quebec’s social movement, or taking a stand against an unjust budget, you’ll be helping to build your community, and strengthening your ties to your neighbors.

I’ll see you there!

 

I’m occasionally witty, but more often outraged, @EthanCoxMTL on twitter. Follow me!

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for Rabble.ca where this post originally appeared.

Québec Solidaire MNA, and co-spokesperson for the party, Amir Khadir was arrested last night in Quebec City. Video from TVA shows him in handcuffs and being led onto a bus with an unknown number of other demonstrators.

A message was posted on the Facebook page of Québec Solidaire, the left wing political party for which Khadir is the only MNA, explaining that Amir left the National Assembly, heard casseroles, and decided to join the completely peaceful march.

The demonstration was declared illegal, some part of it was kettled, arrested and loaded onto a bus. In a statement on Khadir’s arrest, Québec Solidaire says 65 were arrested alongside him.

All, including Khadir, were charged with a violation of article 500.1 of the highway safety code. Something the QS post points out as odd, given that it was an entirely peaceful casseroles march.

The SPVQ (Quebec City police) declared the demonstration illegal because no route was provided. However they proceeded to ticket all those arrested under the highway safety code for obstructing traffic and claimed they were not using Bill 78.

While police in Montreal use a municipal by-law passed concurrently with Bill 78, which replicates many of its provisions, to declare demonstrations illegal which have not submitted a route eight hours in advance, I am unaware of a similar by-law in Quebec City.

Therefore it seems ridiculous for the SPVQ to claim they were not applying Bill 78 when they declared the demonstration illegal. The provision in the Highway Code relating to blocking traffic is meant to be used on people who run around on highways. By definition a protest is “blocking traffic”, so if it can be used on protests then all protests are illegal. Using this law to lay $494 fines on peaceful protestors is an egregious abuse of police authority, and misinterpretation of the law.

The sad and sorry truth of what is happening right now in Quebec is that, insofar as protest is an established pillar of democratic society, our democracy is breaking down.

Kettling has been declared illegal by the G20 inquiry in Toronto, and senior commanders are losing their jobs for employing the technique. Meanwhile in Quebec, it remains the bread and butter of the Montreal and Quebec City police forces.

Bill 78 has been declared unconstitutional by the Quebec Bar Association (representing lawyers and prosecutors) and yet it stands. It is now essentially illegal to protest in this province, and anyone who dares do so risks arrest and a charge or fine.

Democratic society was built by demonstration. It is because of demonstrations that democracy itself exists in our societies. That blacks are treated equally, that women can vote, that we have the weekend. Every good thing about society was fought for, in the streets.

And now Charest, our delusional and demonstrably corrupt Premier, thinks he can eliminate our right to protest? That he can send in the riot squad to arrest peaceful citizens expressing an opinion? That he can arrest a fellow member of the National Assembly for daring to agree with them?

Ya basta! Charest has got to go. Not in a few months, but now. He has taken a broadsword to the fabric of our democracy. He has arrested over 3000 peaceful demonstrators, more than during the October Crisis. He has ignored the will of the people, the very people whose consent he requires to govern.

We have the power my friends. His power comes from our consent. If we withdraw our consent he is powerless, an emperor naked as the day he was born. And I bloody well withdraw my consent!

Forgive my anger, but this latest egregious assault on our most basic liberties has hit me like a final straw across the back. I’ve had enough. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

If you’re in Quebec, you know what to do. Make tomorrow the largest night of casseroles this province has yet seen. Let the very ground quake with the sound of our pots and pans and righteous indignation!

If you’re anywhere else, tomorrow night was already scheduled to be Casseroles Night in Canada. Well over 100 locations around the world have already signed up to hold solidarity casseroles tomorrow at 8PM. Check the list for your town, if it isn’t there start your own casseroles! All you need is an event page, which you should post on the page for the national event. You’ll be amazed at how many people join you!

Let this be the last straw for us all. Nothing is more important than protecting our democracy, and it is most certainly under attack in Quebec.

Some will say the protesters are the undemocratic ones, not respecting decisions of elected representatives. Some will say protest is nothing to do with democracy, that the institution is confined to the ballot box. They should read more, because they are ignorant to the history and meaning of the word democracy.

A democratic government is responsive to the people. Charest is not. A democratic government allows all protests, no matter their cause. Charest does not. A democratic government does not arrest the innocent, does not sweep up large swaths of people on the street. Charest does.

If we lose this struggle, if we allow ourselves to be bowed and beaten yet again, I promise you it will not end here. This is our moment, our line in the sand, our primal scream “This far, no further!”

Wherever you are, whatever you do, join us in the street. To rail against the wicked, but also to celebrate the beauty, the love and the community of our movement.

In the flames of this debacle was born a beautiful thing. Call it civil society, call it community, call it the 99%. In the joy of our casseroles, we came together and shared our love.

An amazing indy filmmaker I met this week has a tattoo on her arm which reads “Love is the movement” For her, we all do what we do out of love. Love for our fellow people, love for our children (born or unborn), love for the earth.

This movement has awakened our communities, and set the fire of love burning in our chests. We are together, we are strong, and we’re done being pushed around.

We’re done being called crackpots and communists for questioning our governments’ slavish obedience to big business. We’re done being arrested, beaten and threatened for exercising our democratic rights. We’re done with greed, with austerity and with unbridled and unhinged capitalism.

You don’t need to be a communist to think our system is out of control. I daresay Adam Smith would agree.

So tomorrow, and every day after, send a message to the world. Our love is greater than your violence. Our community is stronger than your repression. Our dreams of a better world are better than your empty cynicism.

Across the globe, they rally for us Quebec! Because we will win. Because we must win. Because the consequences of losing now are too grave to contemplate.

I know some of you are scared. You have every reason to be. But we cannot let that fear win. If the fear of the police keeps us at home, they have already beaten us. Be peaceful, be joyous, be loving. Stand together and be strong. They cannot arrest us all. There is strength in numbers, and there is strength in each other.

Tonight, my heart is with Amir, and all the others. Tomorrow, I will be in the street. It’s too important not to be.

 

Follow me on Twitter. The revolution may or may not be televised, but you can bet it will be live tweeted! @EthanCoxMTL