Anti-police brutality march remains calm despite tension

Photo by Kalina Laframboise.
Photo by Kalina Laframboise.

The anti-police brutality protest, notorious for its violent turnout, was mostly peaceful and recorded no arrests Saturday night.

Following months of continuous student protests, roughly 200 protesters gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin before marching through the streets of the downtown core to condemn Montreal Police’s use of excessive force.

Demonstrators were notably present to denounce a recent mass dismissal of complaints against police behaviour filed during the student conflict.

“This year’s protest is mainly about the irregularities within police ethics,” said protester and Dawson Student Union Director of external affairs Nicholas Di Penna. “When people give in complaints and they are simply refused it means there are problems of introspection within the police and we ask why isn’t there more control over police brutality.”

According to the protest’s Facebook event page, the ethics commissioner of the Service de Police de Montréal brushed off 46 per cent of the complaints filed against officers during the student strike movement. As a result, demonstrators are concerned that the accused officers will not face sanctions but instead receive a slap on the wrist or the alleged victims will have the opportunity to “express his or her feelings to the accused officer.”

The Montreal Police’s ethics commissioner could not be reached for comment due to the holiday weekend.

According to the Huffington Post Quebec, the reason behind the dismissals are either a lack of information in order to proceed with an investigation, or the alleged victim dropping the case.

The Montreal Police’s Ethics Commissioner Louise Letarte also said that the number of dismissed complaints might increase as the department reviewed only 149 out of the total 193 complaints received related to the student conflict. So far, 60 complaints will lead to further investigation for which the result will appear in spring 2013.

Angered by the dismissals and feeling powerless against a police force individuals believe used excessive violence in interventions, some protesters expressed their concerns over the SPVM’s ability to exercise control over its own officers and to sanction them in the adequate manner.

“If the SPVM and the city won’t hear us in court, then they will hear us in the streets,” said Marc Lamarée, a protester who is currently facing charges in two trials after he was arrested at the Victoriaville riot last May, and at another student protest during the summer. “The SPVM has treated us like troublemakers since the beginning of the movement and I was even told they had a list of protesters to pay special attention to, which I am on. We should be able to defend ourselves legally against such profiling and excesses and this dismissal of complaints is bad news.”

Saturday’s protest was declared illegal by the police before it began due to the organizers failing to provide a march route. The demonstration was still authorized providing it remained peaceful.

The protesters, many of them masked and dressed in black, left Place Émilie-Gamelin at 8:45 p.m. closely flanked by officers and followed by mounted police. They walked through the streets of downtown Montreal, improvising their route and often walking against traffic. Aside from a few busted traffic cones and firecrackers, the protesters carried the march until it ended at its starting point around 11 p.m. with a single individual receiving a ticket.

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