The 16th March Against Police Brutality took place in Montréal a couple days ago, on March 15. Police say they arrested 226 people. I was one of them. I was also beaten, as were many other people I met that night, surrounded by police, in the cold, for 3 hours. Below I've explained a bit of what happened to me. I've also started a blog where I present counter-arguments to the “official story”. Please send this on to everyone you know who may be interested (or not). Police abuse in Québec is systemic, historic and on the rise. Action against police abuse is not. In 2011, over 1700 complaints were made but only 70 reprimands handed out. Please read the brief story below and check out the blog. Feel free to get in touch. And if you can spare a bit of $$, please consider donating to the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality who are coordinating legal aide for those of us who have been unjustly arrested and abused this year and last.
Last year my wife Joanne and I went to observe the annual March Against Police Brutality in Montréal. Moving through the city, the march was about 600 strong and reached the intersection of St-Denis and Mt-Royal. Here, the police decided to use a crowd control method called “kettling” whereby they surround a group of people, ostensibly until tempers (and bladders) boil over. Jo and I were behind the police line and were given a choice of walking back into the dozens of riot police or joining the surrounded crowd. When we asked what consequences these choices would have, the line was only repeated. Eventually, the cop I was arguing with grabbed me by the collar and threw me into the crowd. I made a police complaint which went nowhere because I was unable to identify the man who violated my right to make an informed decision. And so we went again this year.
We arrived at 5pm March 15, 2012 at Place Emilie-Gamelin, right by my university UQAM. We followed the many hundreds strong crowd for the beginning of the march and then went off to a meeting elsewhere. I returned at 7:30pm that night to retrieve my bicycle. Having no idea what had taken place over the previous hour and a half, I did a brief tour of the neighbourhood. The streets had been blocked off by police cars, but for no obvious reason. A small crowd of max. 100 people was jeering at a group of maybe 30 police. It seemed that things would quickly fizzle out if the cops just went home. However, when they launched pepper spray grenades at the small crowd I decided it was time to split. It was then that I saw 3-4 vans full of police speed to the south end of the park. Time to head home and make supper.
Walking my bike up Berri, I turned to see people fleeing the park and riot cops in battle gear coming at me yelling “Bouge Bouge Bouge” or “Move Move Move”. Seeing as I'd done nothing wrong I decided to step aside. It was then that two cops came at me, one backhanding me at the base of my ribs with his club. What? Did this guy really just hit me? I freaked out and then calmly asked the guy with a camera next to me to zoom in on the helmet of the one who hit me.
Moments later, everybody on the street was pushed by cops on all sides, yelling, pushing, whacking people with clubs. In the end, around 200 of us were kept kettled from 8pm-11pm. At 8:47pm the Montréal police tweeted that they were going to arrest us. Around 9pm the told us officially that they were arresting us for contravention of a municipal by-law. Among us were tourists, people on their way to meet friends for supper, teenagers exiting the library, and demonstrators. All declared guilty without due process for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Over the next two hours, they took us one by one, handcuffed us with our hands behind out backs, frisked us, searched our belongings, transported us on city buses driven by city bus drivers to the Operation Centre – East at the extreme north-east end of Montréal. Here, we were again taken one by one, identified, and photographed. All while still handcuffed. I was given a ticket for $146. A bus dropped the lucky ones of us at a metro after midnight just in time for the last train. Other people were released at seemingly random spots in the city after 1am when the metro had closed.
Since I awoke in anger the following day I've been calling media and politicians, trying to speak for myself and others are unable to for whatever reason. For the most part, my voice has been a lonely one. Is it any surprise? How do you write down a badge number while you're being beaten or pepper-sprayed?
Montréal, Québec, Canada
17 March 2012