This is horrible. A video has been circulating on the internet of a group of masked individuals vandalising the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) last night. While my colleague Niall may have written about the upside of demonstrations, there is nothing pretty in this video. This is the other side of things that people don’t get to see that often.
They’re wearing masks, so it’s difficult to identify the perpetrators, but they’re all dressed the same, some serious Black Bloc tactics, there. They were all sporting red squares, too, so you know they’re anti-austerity protesters. They’re an embarrassment to the movement!
Damn ruffians if you ask me. They don’t even know what they’re fighting for. Their peers told them to break something, so they break it. And the worst part is, my tax dollars, all of our tax dollars, are paying for it!
Have a look at this video an tell me that the first word that pops into your head isn’t SHAMEFUL:
* Satire inspired by/lifted from Shayne Gryn’s Facebook feed with permission. Broken window courtesy of the SPVM and Denis Coderre, without permission.
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 “Fair” Elections 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.
In our second FTB Podcast, we discuss Printemps 2015, Quebec’s new student protest against austerity. Also, the role of the US, the UN and austerity in the coup in Ukraine. Plus, our first Montreal Community Calendar.
Last night a video surfaced showing a Quebec City police officer, later identified as Charles-Scott Simard, SPVQ badge number 3143, firing a teargas canister directly into a student anti-austerity protester’s face:
If the aim had been a little higher, things could have been much worse. Regardless of what you think of the protests, it is clear that shooting a teargas canister at someone’s face is wrong, disperses the teargass no differently than shooting it at the ground, and just plain dangerous.
It’s all in the headline, really. To be completely honest, I was contemplating just posting that sentence with a picture and a series of arrows pointing up. Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
A few months ago, Montreal police, along with firefighters, transit workers and other government employees protesting cuts to their pensions were all over the news. They weren’t hiding the fact that these cuts were part of Quebec Premier Philippe Couilard’s austerity agenda. I even remember seeing a fire truck blocking traffic with the word “austerity” painted across the part of the vehicle that holds the ladder.
So what happens when another group, striking students, decide to take up the anti-austerity cause? Well, we get rough cops, a bit of tear gas and a handful of arrests. And that was just yesterday, day one of the strike.
Now, while some police in Laval seemed to get that there is a correlation between students striking against austerity and their own cause, SPVM officers are parading around blissfully ignorant of the irony of wearing red squares on the back of their uniforms while crushing a peaceful protest against austerity. I’d laugh if I didn’t want to cry.
“On n’a rien volé, nous!” Well, you surely appropriated one symbol, whether by intent or accident, from a movement you are now trying to crush. This despite the fact that the movement you are fighting is itself fighting for what you are fighting for.
Yes, all protesting civil servants have a square with their protest’s mantra written on it plastered all over their vehicles and, in some cases, themselves. Whether by accident or some kind of cruel joke, the squares on police cars and now uniforms are red.
Surely someone in the police brotherhood must have realized the irony. Maybe they found it fitting at the time. It is anything but that now.
No No Solidarité
A few months ago, I openly wondered if it was possible to have solidarity with people who had clearly been enemies in the past. Now, it is abundantly clear that the SPVM officers don’t want to change their tune with protestors, despite fighting for the same overall cause.
They clearly don’t care about the broader issue of austerity. They just want their piece of the pie restored and screw everyone else.
While you may say that they’re just following orders, they presumably were a few months ago when a group of firefighters somehow made it into the council chamber at Montreal City Hall on their watch. The hypocrisy is not surprising, it’s just sad and very, very petty.
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.
It’s a gross violation of the right to free speech and freedom of assembly. It’s the local symbol of state repression and unchecked power. It also, apparently, leads to some really sloppy police work.
The conversation surrounding Montreal Municipal Bylaw P-6 has largely focused on the violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms inherent in it and big picture issues of police powers. However, it now looks like it may be defeated on a technicality and police laziness.
A Bit of Background
In 2012, when the Maple Spring was in full bloom, Montreal City Council decided to provide some legal cover for Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s controversial and unenforceable Bill 78. They added clause 2.1 to P-6, making any demonstration that does not provide a route to police in advance for approval illegal.
It took a bit of time, but once student protests resumed, following new premier Pauline Marois’ decision to raise tuition in her own way, the SPVM (Montreal Police) started applying P-6 routinely, at the start of demonstrations, mass-kettling hundreds of people and issuing them $638 tickets. This made demonstrating difficult, and drawing solidarity marchers from the general public, as was the case during the Maple Spring, next to impossible.
Even if you support a cause, the risk of being forced to stand in the cold in one spot for four, five, six hours and then paying for the “privilege” may be the deal breaker, especially if you have kids at home or work the next day. Not letting the new round of protests turning into a mass revolt seems to have been the goal and it seems to have worked, at least until last week.
The Richmond Decision
On March 22, 2013, there was a mass kettling and fining done under P-6. As with other cases, the defendants decided to fight the ticket. However, this time, with no lawyers, they chose to argue that the tickets themselves were invalid and the judge agreed.
Municipal Court Judge Randall Richmond determined that 2.1 did not constitute an offense, but even if it did, the defendants would have to have been organizing the demonstration and there was no way of proving they were.
Richmond also repudiated the procedure police used to issue tickets to demonstrators. Once the protestors were moved from the kettle to busses, SPVM officers issued the tickets to all of the people on the busses en masse. The problem is that the officers signing the tickets had not personally witnessed the accused committing any infraction.
Imagine getting a speeding ticket that’s signed by someone at police headquarters who you never met. Now, imagine that you try and fight it and the person who signed the ticket isn’t even a witness. How can you possibly be expected to pay that ticket?
You can’t. And that’s why Judge Richmond decided to throw out 16 tickets in total, including some for people scheduled for other days.
So, while this is clearly a victory against P-6, it isn’t a total one. The bylaw is still on the books and can be amended by City Council. Hopefully that will seem like an undesirable waste of time, at least long enough for it to be overturned completely on constitutional grounds. Also, it could be appealed.
In the meantime, Judge Richmond’s decision means that anyone police can’t prove to be an organizer can argue that simply being at a demo doesn’t constitute an infraction. Seeing as it’s almost impossible to prove, in some demos, who the organizers are, the SPVM can’t really hold anyone accountable.
Big win for non-hierarchical anarchist organizing. I guess just make sure a non-hierarchical organization creates the Facebook event and not an individual, or if it is an individual, make sure it’s a fake profile with a funny name, or better yet a real name taken from the other side. I, for one, would love to see the SPVM try to fine Ian Lafreniere, Denis Coderre or Heywood Jablome.
It also means that one officer mass-ticketing hundreds doesn’t fly anymore. If the SPVM wants to keep kettling people, they’re going to need a lot more people on hand to witness infractions.
Why Didn’t I Think of That?
This is the kind of decision that hearkens back to Al Capone going down for tax evasions because, of course, organized criminals don’t pay tax. How could anyone caught in a kettle be fined? We all know that police block off any escape route. What if someone happened to be walking down a side street – let’s say a tourist. They turn onto the main artery and get caught. How can the SPVM justify fining them $638?
What about mass ticket signings? How can that be legal at all? When a police force doesn’t apply the same bureaucratic rigour to a gross violation of civil liberties that they do to a parking ticket, you know there’s grounds to fight it.
It seems so simple after the fact. Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t anyone think of that? Well, fortunately some did. Rich James in particular is responsible for suggesting this course of action, and he started doing so in April 2014. However, it was really the defendants Patrick Rene, Eric Thibault-Jolin (or Thibeault-Jolin, according to the court documents) and someone named AK (who had an unsigned ticket and was a minor) who really embraced the concept, fought for it and won.
Cases that came before the court on February 13th were thrown out, too, because the prosecutor had no new evidence. Over 200 more tickets are expected to be thrown out on February 25. Unless the prosecutor comes up with more decisive arguments, the people appearing before the judge on March 23rd and 24th, challenging article 2 itself, can expect the same result.
Now, with the annual Anti-Police Brutality March scheduled for March 15 (as it always is) and the promise of many anti-austerity actions to come, this is going to be an interesting spring and summer.
2015 has been off to quite a busy start, but before we get too involved, let’s take one final look back at 2014.
Every year we ask our contributors to vote on the favourite two posts they wrote and the two posts they liked most from all the other contributors on the site. Then, in a not-too-scientific manner, we turn that into this list.
In no particular order, these are the top posts of 2014 on FTB:
After the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri erupted. In Montreal, the Black Students’ Network of McGill organized a vigil. Cem Ertekin was there to report and record audio and Gerry Lauzon took pictures (read the post).
We only published one post about Jian Ghomeshi this year: Johnny Scott’s satirical response to the overbearing presence of Ghomeshi images in his Facebook feed. The story is important, but do we really need to keep looking at his face? (read the post)
Did you know that Igloofest started out as a joke? Well, it did, and now it’s anything but. Find out about the fest’s origins and its future in Bianca David’s interview with founder Nicolas Cournoyer. (read the post)
When municipal workers took up the fight against austerity, Jason C. McLean wondered if it was possible to show solidarity with those who didn’t reciprocate. Also, would that even be a good thing? (read the post)
This year, we covered Just for Laughs, OFF-JFL and Zoofest. One of the more, um, interesting performances we saw was by Brody Stevens (he had a cameo in The Hangover). Find out why it piqued our interest in this report by Jerry Gabriel. (read the post)
Lindsay Rockbrand just wanted to lay down for a few minutes on a park bench, but the SPVM wouldn’t let that happen. Even though it was before 11pm, they managed to give her a ticket for being in a park after hours (read the post and listen to the interview)
It’s not usual for a year-in-review piece to make it to the list of favourite posts, but Stephanie Laughlin’s look at the events of 2014 as a reason feminism is still needed bucks that trend. Find out why. (read the post)
Our April Fools posts usually catch a few people (usually those just waking up) off-guard, but in 2014 we really seemed to have hit a nerve. Maybe it’s because the scenario we jokingly proposed wasn’t all that inconceivable, given the climate. (read the post)
This year, McGill held a conference on oil and Canada’s energy future. It welcomed people with sustainable solutions to our dependence on fossil fuel and Ezra Levant. FTB’s Sarah Ring and Jay Manafest were in attendance. (read the post)
No, this isn’t just in here because it mentions Ygritte from Game of Thrones, but that helps. It’s actually a pretty cool interview by Pamela Filion with Leigh Janiak, Rose Leslie’s director in Honeymoon. (read the post)
This piece by Cem Ertekin is a prediction of what’s to come in the Quebec student movement (SPOILER ALERT: We’re in for another Maple Spring). It’s also a great primer for anyone wanting a rundown on just what austerity is and Quebec politics for the last few years. (read the post)
I believe in solidarity with workers and I applaud protests that go where they’re not supposed to. I’m also not a huge fan of Coderre.
You’d think the sight of a group of protesting firefighters holding a banner bashing the mayor and causing a bit of chaos right in the council chamber of Montreal City Hall would bring me all kinds of joy. Well, it doesn’t.
You’d also think all the right-wing angryphone “Coderre, he’s our man” type comments left on the CJAD Facebook page and other places online would remind me, as they generally do, that I’m on the other side of the fence. Not in this case.
While I support the firefighters, the transit employees and other municipal workers in their fight against the Quebec Government’s Bill 3, there’s another group in their fight that I have trouble supporting on an emotional, visceral level: the police. In particular, the Montreal Police Brotherhood.
When this group isn’t trying to defend officer’s pensions, they’re standing up for officers like those who murdered Freddy Villanueva and countless others. Say what you want about the STM union and their tactics, but at least they’ve never argued for bus drivers to have the right to run over people if colour they don’t like.
You can’t separate the police from this fight, you can’t even separate them from the action on Monday. The last time student protesters went to City Hall, they couldn’t even get up the steps, never mind in the door and into the council chamber.
The only way Monday’s protesters were able to accomplish what they did was through unofficial police support. That’s cheating in my book.
So here we are, we can’t have solidarity with this group of workers who are protesting without having solidarity with the cops as well. This is a bigger dilemma than that time a few years ago when I realized that supporting STM workers meant I also had to support that asshole bus driver on the 17 route who clearly saw me running for the bus, waited until I was almost at the stop and then sped off.
In that moment, standing on the corner, late for family dinner, I forgot my deeply held convictions and only thought about how I could get that one asshole fired. It’s easy to see how people committed to social justice and workers’ rights can have a problem defending the rights of workers who so brazenly defile the rights of others on a regular basis.
Is it right or is it smart to show solidarity with those who clearly don’t show it to you? Can class consciousness include those who those who serve the elites primarily and only acknowledge that injustice exists when it affects them personally? Is being in solidarity with the police kind of like cheering on your high school bully when he scores a touchdown for the school’s football team? Should we ignore who’s involved and focus instead on the big picture?
These are all very good questions and I don’t have an answer for any of them. What I do have is a suggestion for an action that is also a test.
I’d love to see ASSE or another group on the SPVM hitlist organize a solidarity demo against Couillard and Bill 3. Bring back the red squares, maybe use some of the wording from the red squares that currently adorn police cars, don’t follow P6, don’t provide a route and just see what happens.
Best case scenario, this ushers in a new solidarity where cops in future demos start ignoring their commanders and refuse to enforce bullshit laws against those who stood with them. Most likely scenario is the cops either let the march happen or kettle it quickly and hope it doesn’t get much media play.
No matter what happens, though, this would be a chance for activists to truly take the high road while flipping the script on those in power and their enforcers, if only for a bit.
Lindsay Rockbrand got a $76 ticket from two SPVM officers for being in a public park between 11pm and 7am. Problem is, according to her, she wouldn’t have been there at 11:09, when the citation was issued, had the police not kept her there for over 20 minutes.
Rockbrand says the officers first approached her at around 10:50 as she was lying down on a bench on a traffic island, technically considered (and badly identified as) a park in Hampstead, a few blocks from her home in Cote-St-Luc. They proceeded to ask her what she was doing and when she wasn’t forthcoming and wanted to know what business was it of theirs, they wouldn’t let her leave, citing a number of reasons that didn’t end up on the subsequent ticket, keeping her in place for roughly 20 minutes.
She feels they were determined to fine her for something, anything, and effectively created the situation they eventually ticketed her for being in.
You can listen to her tell the story:
We didn’t contact the SPVM as their side of the story is pretty much spelled out on the ticket. However, if they or the officer in question would like to comment, they’re welcome to, either via social media or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll update the story.
Has something like this ever happened to you? Do you think it’s right for police to charge people for things that are only technically true because of officer’s actions?
Montreal’s police department, the SPVM, has finally crossed a line that they can’t very easily step back over. It’s not their blatant violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms while enforcing Municipal Bylaw P6, it’s not their mass-kettling of peaceful protestors, the SPVM seem to be getting away with both those infractions on our liberty.
No, this is something more heinous than even the most hardened recipient of police repression can fathom. It’s their choice of font. Yes, we have obtained a copy of an official document, a disclosure of evidence before trial for being at an “illegal protest” (which, for those of us that can remember a time before P-6, means being at a protest), and it is written in Comic Sans MS. Yes, the most hated of all fonts.
Katie Nelson is one of hundreds of people who recieved this document today. She is also the recipient of many other SPVM documents (she’s suing the city for political profiling) and thinks that the SPVM’s choice of font is indicative of the way our police department has been behaving.
“Comic Sans MS is friendly looking but an incredible violation of the art of calligraphy,” Nelson argues, “it may look cute with it’s rounded edges and curly js, but looks can be deceiving. Just like P6, which claims to ensure the safety of participants but is really only an unconstitutional anti-protest law intended to violate the basic right of dissent.”
Are we Montrealers going to stand for this. Comic Sans MS on official police documents is an affront to common decency. C’mon, this isn’t 1998, back then we had the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
If we push and push hard against the SPVM’s use of Comic Sans MS and win, it will be a great victory, one we can all share. Maybe then we can get together and try to do something about P6, or at the very least, get the suspension of our basic rights in a font like Arial or Times New Roman, not Comic Sans MS, the P6 of fonts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Katie Nelson is a Montreal-based activist and protest organizer. This post originally appeared on her blog Marois&Moi and is republished here with permission
When the municipal by-law P6 first came into legislation, our spirits were high and our fists still raised. Many of us spoke of the inevitable resistance to it, just as thousands had gathered to oppose its sister, Loi 78, just months before. I remember vividly the lectures hundreds would give to riot police while mass arrested on the anti-constitutionality of the by-law, on their impending doom and our uprising’s fate.
The struggle against P6 continues, now approaching court rooms and judges, and it still is an unconstitutional use of law, but our fists have weakened and our spirits lowered as the effects of anti-protest crack downs continue to repress more than just our ability to manifest, but most significantly our ability to organize together.
A protest planned for March 1st in coordination with several others across Canada, was organized against Harper. Although the two main organizers have insisted an over-seeing group, unnamed, were responsible, a decision within a small faction of people was made to collaborate with Montreal’s police, the SPVM, and cooperate under the legalities of P6.
Not long after the organizer posted the route and informed the attendees of their decision to cooperate with police, an enormous dissent grew on the event page. Most were simply asking why, while others inquiring on the decision-making process and their exclusion from it.
Within a few hours, organizers across Canada from other Anti-Harper Protest groups had stormed the page in disagreement with the persistent deletion of comments, censorship of opinions and vocal participants, the cooperation with police and the attitude of the organizers; most distancing themselves from the Montreal protest and those responsible for it.
The following evening the event page disappeared and a message was sent out explaining the organizers had cancelled the event due to bullying and intimidation. Fortunately, resistance is not owned by two individual people, nor can it be micro managed by political motive or liberal ideology. Several new events resurfaced, all calling for action in solidarity across Canada, non-compliant with P6 and anti-protest laws and open to vocalized opinions from the public.
The following few days, the true effects of police repression showed themselves, with even a sabotage attempt from the now ex-organizers on a few others, dividing groups and drawing lines in the sand of our struggle.
My position on P6, although public, remains the same as when I initially stated it: I stand strongly against anti-protest laws, including P6, C-309 and “Protest Insurance Policies” (as seen in Western Canada), relevant to political manifestation. I am indifferent, and unqualified to speak to the choices and decisions of protests which serve to platform the voices of Indigenous Rights, Solidarity Across Borders, Status for All and Immigrant Solidarity, as these struggles are not my own and I am only an ally within them, thus not a place for me to speak about the laws in which they choose or not choose to abide by.
That being said, if not now then when will we finally open the floors of discussion on police repression and the successful use of P6 in not only the streets, but in our abilities to organize effectively? When will we identify that repression and political prosecution has been an event for thousands in this city and continues to be insofar as we allow it?
Camus, in a speech given at the Labor Exchange of Saint-Etienne in May of 1953, said: “The contention was that we needed justice first and that we would come to freedom later on, as if slaves could ever hope to achieve justice. And forceful intellectuals announced to the worker that bread alone interested him rather than freedom, as if the worker didn’t know that his bread depends in part on his freedom.”
We cannot believe that by abiding by this law we will seek freedom soon thereafter. We cannot fall for the bread alone, in exchange for the nonexistent pensions of liberty.
P6 is but an adaptation of Loi 78 and this law in any form or of any name strips us of freedom, far before the thought of attaining it ever crosses our minds. The opposition to P6 is opposition from the very individuals in which the law represses. Abiding by P6 and giving a route without consulting the lambs in which these legislations serve to sacrifice is the purest and most insensitive form of non-solidarity our resistance and struggle has been victim to.
We cannot be surprised when the left pulls from calls to protest in which organizers collaborate with police, and we cannot shame those who boycott those organizers and protests. All of this leads to a much more significant question: why is this a surprise for so many organizers? Why do organizers take it personally when the very people they organize for refuse to associate with submission?
I suppose Burroughs said it properly when he said, “A functioning police state needs no police.” And with this, we must always remember: our opposition’s keepers stand in the streets with us, but only to stand across from us and never beside.
It is important that we have solidarity with allies. Cooperating with P6 and collaborating with the SPVM is not solidarity with anyone other than the state.
The question here is not do we give the route, it is how we arrive at that decision. Direct democracy is essential to the survival of the resistance, consensus should be sought and when dissent arrives over executive decisions, those organizers should acknowledge the opposition and work to compromise.
I boycotted this manifestation and these organizers not because of bruised pride or unacknowledged concerns, but because I stand in solidarity with the many thousands of people facing political prosecution daily in the courtrooms of Montreal, because these people stood with me during a six month strike and every day after, and they never compromised themselves or me in the process. We need to stand together against P6 if we ever hope of standing together against the state.
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.
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.