On Wednesday March 7, 2012, more than a 1,000 students took to the streets in Montreal to protest rising tuition fees. During this demonstration, students marched to the Loto Quebec building on Sherbrooke Street West where they occupied the entrance.
At the attempted occupation, students clashed with Montreal police’s riot squad and tear gas and flash grenades were used to disperse the crowd. The use of both crowd-control weapons was confirmed later in the day by Sgt. Ian Lafrenière. He also confirmed that several officers and demonstrators were injured over the course of the action.
Among those injured was Francis Grenier (20) following the explosion of a police stun grenade to the face — specifically to the right eye. Grenier is a student at Cégep de Saint-Jérôme and was attending the peaceful demonstration when he was wounded by police.
Grenier said he was playing a harmonica in front of the building when he was asked by police to leave the scene. As he started to leave, riot police started launching stun grenades over the crowd. The first grenade missed him, but a second detonated close to his face, he said.
TVA news reported that apparently, “after Grenier ran from the scene badly injured to find help from a police officer, the officer refused to help him or to call him an ambulance. He was eventually helped to the hospital by fellow students.” Grenier underwent surgery that night for a detached retina.
The following day, hundreds of demonstrators again took to the streets for International Women’s Day and to defend students, some of whom wore eye patches or covered their right eye in solidarity with Grenier.
According to reports at the scene, dozens of protesters each dropped a long-stemmed red rose into a pile at the feet of armoured riot police vehicle; many held a hand over their right eye as they knelt to place the flowers.
On March 11, 2012, it was announced by blogger Alexander Higgins that Grenier had lost his right eye to the devastating injury. Activists charge that police are responsible for launching the flash grenade (stun gun grenade) that struck him in the face.
The Montreal police have announced it will investigate Grenier’s injury and the event’s of Wednesday’s demonstration, though it cautioned that it was “too early” to tell exactly how Grenier was injured.
A similar injury from the flash grenade in Occupy Oakland activist Scott Olsen.
Iraq vet and former U.S. Marine Scott Olsen was struck in the head by a police projectile on October 25, 2011, while attending the Occupy Oakland demonstration. While Olsen was initially placed in a coma to help protect his damaged brain, he is currently recovering.
In the video shot during the event, after Olsen was struck down, a group of demonstrators braved police tear gas and rubber bullets to assist the fallen veteran, only to be shot at themselves and injured. Not only was the rescue group under a volley of rubber bullets, one police officer threw another tear gas canister into the group.