March against police brutality

The annual march against police brutality on March 15 is an international protest dedicated to raising awareness of the rights of citizens and supporting victims of excessive police violence.

Despite several other large gatherings being cancelled over the coronavirus, the protest took place.

Usually, the contentious event involves clashes between officers and protestors resulting in mass arrests, injured police officers and citizens, and vandalism, since its creation in 1997. This Sunday’s protest included a protest gathering, testimonials and speeches by victims of police brutality, such as Marie Dimanche who spoke about the issues of political corruption in Haiti.

The event was co-created and organized by the Montreal-based Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP), an autonomous group dedicated to denouncing violence by police through marches, workshops, research, and other social projects. According to COBP, there were a total of 150 people and three arrests at the protest on Sunday. The SPVM, however, said there were no arrests made.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some conversations on notable issues of police brutality in Montreal were absent. This included speaks on the death of Pierre Coriolan who was shot by the SPVM and Gabrielle Duchesneau, who had suffered a fractured skull during a demonstration on International Workers’ Day in 2012.

Consisting of victims, witnesses and those troubled by police violence, some members choose to remain anonymous to not be targeted by the authorities, including a member of the COBP who helped organize the march and goes by the alias 1312.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a right or a left [government], the repression is always there,” said 1312, speaking of the theme of this year’s event, “Police everywhere, justice nowhere.”

He explained how the focus of the protest would also include solidarity with social movements against authoritative repression targeting citizens’ rights and freedoms. He mentioned issues abroad in countries facing government oppression such as Chile, Haiti and Iran, and here in Canada with racial profiling.

A report last year documented how the SPVM has a systemic bias in targeting racial minorities during street checks. The findings drew a wide range of criticism, with many defining the acts of the police as racial profiling and remarks from city officials such as mayor Valérie Plante for calling for a change in SPVM’s conduct.

“We already knew it was happening, the sole difference is now, it is written on paper,” said 1312, who explained the situation with the police concerning racial profiling in Montreal has not changed. “We are inundated with calls, people sending emails, and of people who are victims of racial profiling.”

Adeela Arshad-Ayaz, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Department of Education at Concordia University and a fellow of Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability. Arshad-Ayaz researches and teaches on a variety of social subjects and issues, from multiculturalism to extremism.

She said, “Nobody is cut off from wider society. So police whether its police, or lets say academia, from where I am from, we are all a part of a bigger society, and the wider societal discourses they work on us and we are living in times where the tolerance is low and people try to take shortcuts, and we try to categorize people in small groups and label them and then it’s much easier for us to access that information.“

Arshad-Ayaz said that unlike those working in academia who have time to ponder decisions, “the nature of their [police] work is such that they have to take instantaneous actions.” She added that the only way to combat it is to increase transparency and to have, “balances, checks and measures, so that we can avoid brutality and violence because in the end we are all human beings and we can all make wrong decisions.”

The SPVM refused two attempts made to contact them for comment on the protest.


Photos from archive – by Alex Hutchins (2017)


UPDATED: Police adjourn anti-police brutality march

Police give two warnings to protesters before shutting down the protest

The sound of helicopters flying overhead were heard as a crowd of approximately 300 marched along Ontario street. A protest which began with unified chanting, escalated to protesters throwing flares and one cop car being damaged as the group reached Quartier des Spectacles.

Protest participant smashes windows of SPVM car. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“No justice, no peace, fuck the police,” protesters shouted in unison, as they walked from Hochelaga towards Montreal’s downtown core. The march began at 7 p.m. at Place Simon-Valois and concluded two blocks east of Place des Arts.

The protest was organized by Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière, a group founded in 1995 which opposes harassment, intimidation, arrest, violence and brutality-related conduct by police. They also provide support for victims of police brutality.

Many protesters dressed in all black. Photo by Alex Hutchins

As marchers walked along Ontario street, some protesters began to throw flares as they turned towards Ste-Catherine, however, police blocked the way. Near Union and Ste-Catherine, one participant in the crowd began to hit the windows of a police car parked on the street, smashing them—a few joined in. Police, however, did not intervene.

Police warned protesters twice before intervening. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

At approximately 9 p.m. protesters marched towards Place des Arts—some shot flares and some began to hit windows. Around the same time, police arrived on horse. The SPVM warned the crowd that some participants were initiating unlawful conduct and if it persisted, police would intervene and shut down the demonstration.

One protester began hitting the window of the H&M located at Ste-Alexandre and Ste-Catherine, but didn’t shatter the glass. Police gave a second warning to protesters, as a line of cops trailed behind the march.

“Tout le monde deteste de la police,” many protesters chanted in unison. Most of the crowd was enrobed in black.

Video by Frédéric Muckle.

Moments after, police on foot and on bikes began trooping in. As protesters approached Saint-Urbain, cops interfered after some did not comply to cease vandalism. Some were kettled near SPVM headquarters, but were released.

A blockade was made in front of the headquarters, for remaining participants along Ste-Catherine. As the SPVM moved through the crowd, this split the crowd of protesters in half—a few cops on horses remained as steady watchdogs.

“They tend to do whatever they please,” said protest participant Richard Beaulieau, referring to police illegally arresting and ticketing people.

Police follow protesters. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Beaulieau recalled the time an SPVM officer hit him with a baton on March 5, 2013, as he was participating in Maple Spring protests against tuition hikes.

Although police had successfully broken up the crowd, some participants lingered. Many cops stood guard, with a small row of police on horse at the intersection of Saint-Urbain.

Watch our video footage of the protest below.

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