Protesters call for defunding of police after fatal shooting of Sheffield Matthews

Push for funding of mental health services after SPVM kills another Black man


Protesters held a demonstration on Nov. 7 seeking justice for Sheffield Matthews, a Black man who was fatally shot last week by police in Montreal. The protest called for the defunding of police and the reallocation of funds to mental health intervention teams that are trained to de-escalate people in crisis.

Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police Coalition organized the rally that took place in Trenholme Park in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood.

Protestor at the Defund the Police protest sign points to the fact police were called because Sheffield Matthews was in distress

“I’ve had enough. I’m angered, I’m triggered, I’m just sad and annoyed that this keeps happening right in our backyards,” Antonia Haywood, a protester at the demonstration, told The Concordian. “When there’s a crisis involved, I don’t think the police should be there … we need people trained in crisis intervention and mental health to be present in times like these.”

Early last Thursday morning, police responded to a call of a man in crisis in NDG. When they arrived on scene, they reported seeing a Black man holding a knife near a civilian car. When the man came towards their squad car, police alleged that the man lunged at them with the knife and they shot him seven times, killing him.

Sue Montgomery, mayor of the borough Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, said she’s attending the protest in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

“It’s a tragic, senseless loss of life and I’m here to stand side by side with the Black community,” said Montgomery. “It’s clear there’s systemic racism in this city.”

Julien Lévesque, a spokesperson for the SPVM, said he had no comment on the killing of Matthews or response to the calls by protestors to defund the police. He said he supports the right for demonstrators to stage a protest, as long as it’s done safely.

Remy Gibbs, whose uncle was shot and killed by police two years ago in the same neighbourhood, spoke to the crowd in the park. Gibbs contrasted the killing of Matthews to the police’s treatment of Carl Girouard.

Girouard, who’s white, slayed two people and injured five with a sword in Quebec City this past Halloween. He was talked down and left unharmed by police.

Protestor wore an earring with the acronym ACAB, which stands for “All Cops are Bastards”

“Sheffield Matthews supposedly had a knife and was still murdered after he didn’t kill anybody [which] is a sign that systemic racism does exist,” said Gibbs, megaphone in hand.

Hundreds of people cheered after each speech was made. Demonstrators chanted “No justice no peace, defund the police!” and “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”

After the speakers finished, the organizers led the protest to the streets as the chants carried on. Protesters banged pots, others whistled, and many held up their fists as they blocked traffic from passing through. The protesters marched to the corner of Côte-Saint-Luc Road and West Hill Avenue where the shooting took place.

Several people placed bouquets of flowers at the spot where Matthews was killed. One man said he picked flowers from his garden.

“It’s Montreal standing up to injustice,” Egbert Gaye told The Concordian. Gaye is the founder of Community Contact, a newspaper that covers Black and Caribbean issues in Quebec.

“Police have a weak point in dealing with two things: Black people and mental health,” said Gaye.

The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), an internal provincial organization that conducts independent investigations when someone is seriously injured or shot by police, is still investigating the death.


Photographs by Fenn Mayes

Looking to anarchism for a police free world

How we can embrace community-driven approaches to safety

Since the eruption of international protests in response to the murder of Black man George Floyd at the hands of the police, the discussion of either defunding or abolishing police forces has taken centre stage. Yet, many still have concerns as to what a world with a radically diminished police presence would actually look like.

While there is no simple answer to the question of what abolishing or defunding the police would consist of, there are a lot of helpful tools we can take from anarchist mentalities that show how to build community-driven approaches to safety. It all starts with an acknowledgement that government institutions do not work for the benefit of marginalized people. With that, communities should keep an eye out for each other as much as possible and not rely on those institutions, because our reliance gives them power.

One main tenet of anarchism is the concept of mutual aid. Simply put, mutual aid is the practice of voluntarily exchanging goods and services for overall community benefit. The thrust of mutual aid efforts center on the idea that when communities can pull together to provide for themselves, they are less dependent on often oppressive institutions and become more tightly knit.

Mutual aid has become somewhat of a buzzword since the COVID-19 outbreak— and for good reason. In countless cities around the world, neighbours have come together in order to share extra food and supplies, give social support, offer delivery services, and more. One Facebook group for Montreal mutual aid now has over 17,000 members, where posters continue to help others who are sick or out of work. However, in the past week, many of the posts have pivoted to sharing resources for how to help Black people and protesters in the Montreal community.

It would be difficult to deny that mutual aid is necessary for people thrust into precarity due to a global pandemic; however, for Black communities, mutual aid has been a lifeline for decades. For example, in the 1960s, The Black Panther Party offered a free breakfast program to children in their community. These kids were overlooked by the government as they were redlined and ghettoed into impoverished neighbourhoods, often going hungry during the school day. The Panthers saw the hunger and inequality that was forced upon their community by an actively white supremacist government, and took power into their own hands. The breakfast program was a major success, but a few years after it was enacted, the FBI cracked down due to the government’s phoney labelling of the Panthers as a hate group. Ironically, the U.S. federal government ended up implementing their own school breakfast program just a few years later.

The turn away from reliance on government can be applied to more than just food programs and facemasks—we can look to these anarchist concepts for guidance on what a world would look like without institutionalized police.

Another useful concept within mutual aid is community self-defense— the notion that civilians should be in charge of their own safety rather than relying on cops. For many communities, most notably Black and Indigenous people, the police are a blatantly violent and aggressive force, who do more intimidating than protecting. Community self-defense may answer the following question: ‘when the cops are the ones committing the crimes, who are you supposed to call?’

It is not that the policing system is broken—  it was never designed to work for the benefit of marginalized people. Across Canada, the demographic makeup of police departments are overwhelmingly more homogenous than the cities they’re sworn to protect. This disparity can lead to not only cultural misunderstandings but also higher rates of violence due to implicit racial bias. With this in mind, it only makes sense that those who protect a community should be from the community itself.

Community self-defense can come in many different forms. This could look like neighbourhood walking-patrols, trained social workers countering catcalling, watchdog groups monitoring white supremacists, sexual assault survivor networks, etc. The goal is to reroute funding that previously went towards police into groups that will support communities at the civilian level. Any group with power is susceptible to corruption, and there’s always the chance that people will join for nefarious reasons. However, those within a community have a vested interest in the betterment and safety of their group, as well as an added level of empathy towards those they’re protecting. This is because they won’t just see the offenders as criminals, but also as friends and neighbours.

The shift to a less police-focused state would not be simple, and it would likely require a lot more action on the civilian level. Yet, with a shift towards community-building in marginalized areas, it is not an impossible task. The status quo is structurally failing our Black neighbours and that should be enough to have everyone question the system as it is.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Exit mobile version