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Irony hits the SPVM

by Verity Stevenson March 26, 2013
Irony hits the SPVM

Photo by Joseph Leger

“Fuck the police. Know your rights!” my friend Nick texts me after I send around a SnapChat clip of the kettle I’m in. I delete the message as soon as it pops up on my screen. What are my rights?

The sergeant is lazily reciting some sort of routine arrest warrant. It’s procedure. It isn’t about whether we hear and understand it or not. And it isn’t about whether we had time to take down the number we might need to call (514-842-2244.) I get a kick out of “You have the right to remain silent” — just because!

I overhear a group of friends say, “well, I guess we should just order the pizza next time instead of going outside to pick it up.” This is when I realize that Montreal, during protests, becomes a police state. Over 250 people (notice the omission of “protesters”) were arrested on Friday and according to reports, none were a huge threat. In fact, no one really had time to start protesting as police had already set up their barricades and preemptively arrested a bunch of people.

Passerby or not, if you were there at the wrong place at the wrong time, you were . . . well, just that. I meet a guy while handcuffed on the STM-turned-SPVM bus who was on his way out of class when we got trapped right in front of UQÀM. He has a bus to catch at midnight for a $270 organized trip to Boston celebrating St. Patrick’s day.

About half of us are journalists, begging the cops to take a look at our press passes. It’s more than plain bad luck when half the people arrested are the media and frankly, that’s not a good image for the SPVM’s reputation, which is more than tarnished at this point.

According to Thursday’s Metro, the number of complaints sent to Montreal’s ombudsman’s office went from 103 to 1,577 per year since its creation in 2003. Police brutality, I am sure, made up most of those in 2012 and 2013.

We’re on Ste-Catherine St. between St-Denis and Sanguinet and the air is cold and wet. One of the guys who started the commotion is on the ground in pain as an ambulance with a cop in it passes by. A few girls are crying, but when the officers stop screaming at those of us trying to negotiate, things get quiet. Our fate sets in and we start fraternizing. Is the sheer ridiculousness accountable for the light atmosphere or is it because we’re a bunch of kids?

Even some of the cops exchange some sympathetic looks with me as I explain to my father over the phone why my boyfriend had to pick my little brother up at the bus station and not me. One of them goes to pick up my gloves that fell out of my pocket on the ground behind him.

Only after did I realize how lucky I had been when I learnt about how Kelsey McGowan, the only protester to be hospitalized, was pushed, dragged and allegedly kicked by cops as she had been standing on the corner (on the sidewalk) of St-Urbain and Ontario.

“I [made] an assumption that there were several protesters running from the riot police because I felt about 10 heavy blows to the back of my head, shoulders, back and legs,” said McGowan, only to realize that the only people close enough to touch her were police officers.

It’s wildly ironic that the very thing we protested on March 15 became a staple for the event. It isn’t that it’s a reality we’ve accepted, it’s that it’s a reality that we’ve come to know. There’s this civil — see municipal — war going on between our future and those who protect it and that very notion is so scary.

As university student Shawn Austin told the Montreal Gazette, “we were never given a chance to prove we can be peaceful. We’re not out here to say all cops are bad. We’re out here to make the point the police brutality is unacceptable and I think tonight, the police made that point for us.”

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