Last Monday, student journalists covering a protest march taking place in the downtown core were stopped by police and ticketed. These Concordia students protested that they were covering the event for a class and tried to show their passes, but their explanations fell on deaf ears.
This is the type of thing that really makes us mad. While the journalists ticketed were not on The Concordian’s masthead, they were journalists nonetheless and being tossed in with the rest of the protesters is extremely unfair.
Young reporters often have a hard time proving to Montreal police that they are covering a protest, and not participating in it, and the last thing any journalist wants is to be arrested or ticketed for doing their job.
This is a problem many reporters faced covering the Maple Spring last year and into this summer and it can make for some close calls. Police seem to think that just because the student press isn’t as high profile as other mainstream publications, it isn’t “real” or “legitimate.”
The same thing can happen with freelancers and young people trying to break into the field itself. Often they find themselves alone, taking photos and getting quotes, until all of a sudden, the police are surrounding the area.
The tickets people can be charged with for participating in a protest that doesn’t give a route beforehand, or doesn’t respect the flow of traffic can run pretty high, with one Concordia student getting charged almost $500.
How is the press supposed to effectively cover demonstrations like this and inform the public when we have to worry about getting arrested? The Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal is becoming more infamous than ever for brutality and reporters should not have to be scared to be out in the streets at a non-violent protest.
The other concern that comes to mind is ‘why now’? Why is the SPVM choosing to crack down on student and journalists now when protesters flooded the streets nightly only a few months ago. Now that demonstrations have become rare, and the energy of the student movement has ebbed, what message are they trying to send?
As far as we are concerned, it feels like the SPVM is trying to silence people who are simply exercising their right to protest and have their opinions heard. Our staff reporters covered dozens of demonstrations this year and it is worrying to us that police are back to treating students like dirt now that the Maple Spring has come to an end.
Rest assured, though, we have no intention of stopping anytime soon. Where student interests are at stake, student reporters will be there to cover it, and a few unfounded tickets and SPVM scare tactics aren’t going to change that.