A letter the Montreal Gazette has yet to publish and a summary of recent anti-austerity/oil extraction demonstrations in Montréal:
At an anti-austerity protest on Saturday I was arrested, searched, locked in a claustrophobia-inducing paddy wagon and all I got was akin to a traffic ticket. I was accused of contravening Montreal city bylaw article P-6 [prohibiting wearing masks at protests and requiring itineraries in advance. –ed.]. Imagine if the police treated speeding drivers the same way!
But while the police have used this bylaw passed at the height of the 2012 protests to strike fear in individual demonstrators, P-6 has primarily been used to infringe on our collective right to assembly. It has given the police a powerful tool to criminalize demonstrations. Prior to receiving the P-6 bylaw infraction about 250 of us marched in a big loop around Place Émilie-Gamelin because the riot squad blocked us from traveling West, then north, then East etc.
After marching in a circle for a while protesters chose an impromptu sit-in. Not long thereafter the police said that we had to return to the park, effectively eliminating our right to demonstrate.
As the police corralled the crowd an Officer pushed me and told me to move more quickly. I responded by telling him to “F off” — for which he pulled me out of the march, arrested me, sequestered my belongings, encaged me in a paddywagon and then released me with a $640 ticket.
The message I’ve taken from the city and province’s response to the student-led movement is that one has the right to demonstrate, but if you grow to become a real threat to the powers that be they will criminalize your fundamental rights.
La lutte continue
There were about 600 of us at the Monday night demo. The police tried to corral it within a few blocks’ radius, blocking us at most intersections. A little after we got past them at one intersection dozens and dozens of riot squad came at us from every direction and fired tear gas right on Saint Catherine Street. I ended up in a mall where the IGA workers, a good 50 feet and a couple of doors between them and the street, were visibly irritated by the tear gas. After that small groups were repeatedly pushed around by the cops.
On Tuesday night a feminist (non-mixed) demo left from in front of Concordia and from what I’ve been told was also corralled into a few blocks’ radius by the police. Then once a few people got past the police line they fired pepper spray and — I believe — teargas, which largely dispersed a crowd of somewhere around 1000.
They apparently also beat a few people pretty severely, though not as bad as during the 50,000-plus demo on Thursday where one guy had his head smashed through a car window (the police failed to report it in their summary of the days events but pictures of the assault have now come to light).
One of the hilarious things about the media response to the feminist demo is that they were all whipped up about how the organizers asked men to stay away but had little problem with the police physically forcing everyone to leave.
More actions and demos are forthcoming so we will see if the police repression succeeds or if it ends up propelling the struggle forward.
Image: Flickr/Jerome Olivier