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(en) Police brutality ends women's action in Montreal

From Jaggi Singh <jaggi@tao.ca>
Date Wed, 8 Mar 2000 00:58:24 -0500


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-- POLICE BRUTALITY ENDS WOMEN'S ACTION IN MONTREAL

-- ONE MALE DEMONSTRATOR BADLY BEATEN, LEAVING POOL OF BLOOD ON SIDEWALK

-- CATHOLIC CHURCH INTERIOR "RE-DECORATED" WITH GRAFFITI, CONDOMS,
MAXIPADS AND BRAS

-- UPDATE: POLICE CRITIC ARRESTED HOURS LATER BY 10 COPS


MONTREAL, March 7, 2000, 6:10pm -- A women's action ("action femmes") on
the eve of International Women's Day ended brutally as helmeted Montreal
Police (SPCUM), armed with batons, chased and beat protesters. At the time
of this writing (just over two hours after the demo), at least 3 women and
2 men are in police custody. One of the men was badly beaten by at least
four cops and is believed to be in hospital. Other demonstrators were
subdued with painholds to the neck and hands, as well as baton blows. One
of the arrested women, who was operating a camcorder, was singled out by
the police and nabbed.

The women's action itself took place at the headquarters of the Catholic
Archdiocese of Montreal, across from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in downtown
Montreal. After leaving the church, the protesters, numbering between 50
and 75, marched up University Street. Police cars and vans, with helmeted
officers inside, ominously started surrounding the marchers. Without
warning, officers disembarked and started giving chase, swinging their
batons indiscriminately. Police vehicles also pursued demonstrators at
high-speed.

The protesters divided into two groups, with the majority running along
Cathcart Street, slipping into alleyways, or running into a local mall. At
the corner of Cathcart and McGill College, the police caught up with some
people they considered demonstrators. In all, five people were put into
painholds, handcuffed and eventually led away. It is still unclear if
other demonstrators were arrested or beaten elsewhere.

One man in particular, who had tried to push an officer off another
demonstrator, took the brunt of the police attack. He was tackled by four
helmeted cops, placed in painholds to the neck and hands and hit by
continuous baton blows. This writer witnessed the man endure at least five
two-armed baton blows to the head in rapid succession, all while lying on
the ground with his hands behind his back. The struggle continued for at
least a few minutes before the demonstrator, a young man in his early 20s,
was put into an ambulance. He had a large bloody gash on his forehead, and
had to be held up. Some bystanders recall hearing an ambulance paramedic
urging the police to stop their beating ("Ca suffit. Ca suffit." That's
enough, that's enough.).

The beating left a large, thick pool of blood on the sidewalk that, along
with the police presence, attracted a crowd of bystanders on what is
normally a busy downtown street, across from Le Commensal restaurant, and
within sight of a Planet Hollywood. Several bystanders demanded to know
why the arrests were being made; not surprisingly, the police played dumb.
Others in the charged and emotional crowd -- at this point made up almost
entirely by non-demonstrators -- recalled the names of Jean-Pierre Lizotte
and Richard Barnabe, men who were beaten to death in the last few years by
the Montreal Police (beatings that had initially been covered-up).

The police left the scene in a hurry, leaving only the pool of blood and
the beaten man's broken glasses as evidence they had ever been there.

The afternoon had started on a festive note as demonstrators gathered
earlier at Phillips Square. The women's action had been called by a local
collective that describes itself as "feminist and radical" and opposes
both patriarchy and capitalism. The publicity for the support demo, open
to men and women, announced a direct action against "a pillar of
patriarchy", although the exact site was only known to the collective of
women organizers.

A newsletter entitled "The Witches" (Les Sorcieres) was passed out, with
one article attacking religion as "misogynist, authoritarian and
patriarchal", while another piece provided instructions about how
Catholics could get "unbaptized."

Demonstrators proceeded to march the short distance to the site of the
action, the large church that forms the headquarters of the Catholic
Church in Montreal on Rene-Levesque Boulevard. The protesters, led by
women, entered the church, and proceeded to engage in some quick
re-decorations. Condoms and maxipads were laid over various statues, idols
and photos. In particular, the eyes on a portrait-size photo of Pope John
Paul II were covered with a maxipad. The church altar was decorated with
condom balloons and a bra, while placards denouncing patriarchy and
upholding women's control over their bodies were placed strategically all
over the building. Flyers and newsletters were placed in those bibles and
hymnals that hadn't been thrown on the ground.

The three people who were actually in the Church to pray were scandalized
by the action. Somewhat controversially, some wooden crosses were lit on
fire on the steps outside the church before the protest marched away. A
few demonstrators pointed out that burning crosses were associated with
the anti-black, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan; it's clear
that the demo organizers intended absolutely no such parallel, if they
knew about it.


UPDATE [8:10pm]

The Montreal Police's indiscriminate actions today did not end with their
beatings at the end of the demonstration. Four activists, upon hearing of
this afternoon's events, gathered on the sidewalk outside the police
operations center on Guy Street where most of the arrestees were jailed.
No less than 10 police officers soon came outside to arrest and imprison
Alexandre Popovic, an outspoken anti-police brutality activist, radio host
and active member of Citizens Opposed to Police Brutality. Popovic was not
even present at the earlier women's action, and came to the station to
provide support for anyone that might happen to be released and to inquire
about charges.

Popovic has been the target of the police's wrath for the last five years.
He has earlier been nabbed several times on trumped up charges, been
blamed for "masterminding" events he played no part in, and forced to
accept excessive release and probation conditions. His arrest today,
insidious as it is, will surprise absolutely noone familiar with
Montreal's activist milieu, and the cops' boneheaded behavior.

Updates about today's action and arrests will follow as more information
becomes available.


-- report by Jaggi Singh <jaggi@tao.ca>
based on firsthand reporting and eyewitness accounts
for act-montreal, a-infos and the Direct Action Media Network (DAMN)

http://concordia.pirg.ca/activist,
http://www.ainfos.ca
http://damn.tao.ca

anti-copyright

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