(en)The Riot Squads in Quebec City and Montreal

sage (jesse@tao.ca)
Fri, 27 Jun 1997 14:02:55 -0400 (EDT)

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---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Fri, 27 Jun 1997 11:17:19 -0400 From: Dee <seahorse@odyssee.net> Subject: The Riot Squads in Quebec City and Montreal


We, In COBP, would like to thank Michael Novick for sending the message below. However to find a full report on the events that passed in Quebec City and Montreal, please read further. Three COBP members (2 in Montreal, 1 in Quebec) were arrested during the riots in these two cities.

complied by David, Caroline, and Dee with the help of the victims and other citizens who informed us of what happened.

> Rioting Erupts on Quebec Holiday
> QUEBEC (AP) - Police lobbed tear gas into crowds of young people
> near the Quebec legislature early today. They arrested 53 people as
> authorities tried to prevent the widespread rioting that marred the
> provincial holiday a year ago. More than 50,000 people attended a
> concert to kick off a day of provincewide celebrations for Fete
> Nationale. The concert ended at 4:30 a.m. The holiday, formerly
> known as St. Jean Baptiste Day, has evolved from honoring the
> patron saint of French Canadians to being the focus of separatist
> aspirations in Quebec.

What really happened in Quebec City?

During the week prior to the St. Jean-Bapiste national holiday of Quebec, the Quebec City's police harassed marginalized people (mostly youth) on a daily basis. In this week before the holiday 700 tickets, of $135 each were handed out for things like walking on the grass, sitting on the grass, etc. in the parc "Place d'Youville" and elsewhere in the same area of the city. As well, police had arrested 175 people during this same time period for things like not having paid previous tickets (for similar "offences" as cited above). Also youth were constantly asked to indentify themselves all over the area of Old Quebec (downtown). Thus, there was a massive "social cleansing". Last year for the St. Jean-Bapiste holiday there were 240 police present, this year there were 450, almost double. This doesn't include undercover cops.

The riot police as usual ignited the riot. There was a person with a beer can, and the police wanted to pick the can up. The guy didn't comply. Then the police started to beat the hell out of the guy in front the crowd. There was only a few officiers present at that time. These officers waited for an hour for the anti-riot squad because this squad had just received a new formation and they wanted to implement their brand new plan. Their new plan was tear gas, advance, tear gas advance and beat the shit of the people you catch. They continually advanced toward the youth provoking a reaction. Then they arrested a hundred people, among them 33 are still detained. The others were relased yesterday. Those in prison were not liberated until they could prove that they are able to pay the $1000 bail that the courts demand. While there were 18 windows broken, one person broke 12 of them. Many people who witnessed the riot say that the police were agressive and were extremely violent once they arrested someone. One person from COBP who went to Quebec City for the weekend was amongst the 100 who were arrested. They were arrested at 4:00am June 24th. There were 33 who remained detained until the afternoonoon June 25th. A member of COBP, who was amongst those arrested, was interogated at the police station for 32 hours. At the police station everyone was denied access to a lawyer, those who were injured didn't have the right to see a doctor, and NO food was given to the prisoners. Some persons were taken to the prison Osain Ville within 8-9 hours, and others (such as our member of COBP) ended up there for more than a day. Amongst those who were detained (the 33 persons) were political activists.

Here in Montreal.

On the same night of the riot in Quebec City, there was two confrontations with the police here in Montreal, which the news refers to as a "riot". As in Quebec City, the street youth of Montreal have been continually harassed in the week prior to the St. Jean-Baptiste holiday. The youth have already been chased out of green spaces such as Berri Square and Place Beaudry. Since the last few weeks they have congregated at Place Pasteur, which is about one block west of Berri Square. The police have been handing out tickets for the youth (the majority who are punks) for sitting on the grass and telling them they should be get the hell out of the area and go further east (read go to the poorer part of town).

a) Montreal's Place Pasteur -

So on the evening of the 23rd they were again chased out of Place Pasteur and also Berri Square. The police intervened three times. At 10:30, 11:30 an 12:30. When the youth were chased out they started walking west (read richer part of town) and then the confrontation really started up. During this event there were two members of COBP who were doing Copwatch. The group of youth that "rioted" was only 15 in number, and according to witnesses, were very political. In the course of smashing 18 windows some of them denounced the capitalism, the state, etc. A half an hour later the 15 having left, the riot police arrived again, this time circling the whole block an arresting 42 people. These people had (at least for the most part) nothing to do with the "riot". Also during the moment when these people were circled by the police another member of COBP arrived. When she saw what was happening, she wanted to see the other two members of COBP, who were under arrest. The police stopped her by pushing her on the ground. Then when she tried to get up a cop held out his billy club, holding the ends of it with his two hands. When she grabbed the billy club, another cop (a woman cop) approached and hit her hand with her club, breaking it.

On the 25th members of COBP as well as many activists filled the court house when the accused appeared for their charges.The police accused those arrested with riot and mischief charges.The prosecutor didn't agree. The charge laid are illegal gathering. The bail conditions are -do not communicate with any co-accused, -do not participate in any demo or public gathering. A public gathering is any gathering of more than 4 persons. The trial is schedule for August 27th.

b) Montreal's Jeanne-Mance Place - the next day, June 24th

COBP went to do Copwatch at Square Berri between 10:30-11:00. They were police all over the place. At each entrance they were a minimum of 8 police officers plus police cars that passed by every 2 minutes. Please Note that this isn't a large parc. This member of COBP left the place, because it was TOO HOT. Being that 3 members of COBP have already been arrested, and one having being injured by the anti-riot police, she thought it better to take precautions. Shortly after she went to Place Pasteur. There she saw 15 cops that were located there. The cops emptied the place with verbal intimidation. When they returned to Square Berri around 1pm, there were no cops. So the member of COBP (plus other citizens who do copwatch), thought that this was strange so they went to another Hot Spot. They went to Place Jeanne-Mance. Our comrade of COBP didn't see what happened, however the first letter published describes what happened. The second letter that follows is about the "riot" in Montreal on the 23rd. These letters appeared in "The Mirror" an english language entertainment weekly

Party Crashers

We have just witnessed a "riot" that was started at the Tam Tam site and spread to the corner of Mont Royal and du Parc. We would like people to know that the "riot" was provoked by police officers and NOT the small amount of teenagers and onlookers present.

Here is the sequence of events:

Three of us woalking a dog were crossing from Parc Jeanne- Mance when we saw approximately 40 riot-equipped police lined up at the pedestrian path. There was a small and unthreatening crowd which stood before them-maybe 15 CEGEP aged youths interacting with the cops about 100 onlookers such as ourselves. Aside from the odd taunting remark the youths were doing nothing which could be taken to constitute the instigation of a riot, i.e. they wanted to have fun. ' cops, on the other hand, formed an "L" Formation, blocking the trafic on du Parc.

Then we heard a sound which resembled a single gun shot. Suddenly the rushed at the youths, who ran away in complete panic. Several of the youths were struck with batons. One was pushed from behind. This pattern was repeated several times, with the cops standing, the shots sounding and the sporadic charges towards non-violent youths. It got really out of hand when the skirmish line reachd the corner of Mont-Royal and du Parc, as some cops actually entered the park to attack youths who seemed to want nothing more than to get out. It was at this point that we decided to leave Jeanne-Mance Park out of fear for our safety.

There would have veen no "riot" if there had been no riot squad present. The cops were clearly looking for a confrontation.

We have travelled to a number of cities where we have seen the local police on duty, and it is only in Montreal that the police regularly display such a strident, power-tripping, macho attitude. Police in crime-ridden New York actually look casual and approachable, while Montreal cops look cold and way too pumped up for their own good. Incidents like this do nothing to better the already weak relationship between the MUC police and the public. This does nothing to raise the hopes of urban youth who already have enough despair. It is incidents like this which show that alI the police serve is their union, all they protect is their egos.

Michel Arsensault, Andrew Berstein, Lynn Bourque

We Had a RIOT

On St. Jean Baptiste night, the highlight of East Montreal's Grandes Rencontres was a group of six young musicians, Perdu l'Nord. In a tent bursting with four generations, Perdu l'Nord performed tradional Quebecois songs-complete with "des claquettes," (tap shoes) "le violon", bongo drums and electric guitare.

A large group of teens swung to reels a bopped to the rap version of an old-tune. I thought of an expression I often used to describe a good party: "We had a riot"

Back downtown, though, there another type of riot. As my friend and I turned onto Ste- Catherine, a half-dozen so police towered over a punk sprawled facedown he was alone. We were ordered out of the area. My friend was quietly livid; for two years she has watched punks being harassed by the police. I felt the young man needed a witness. At the corner, helmeted men and women formed a solid line. They advance until they met the other half of the power patrol.

This morning I think about the young people step-dancing at the Marche de Maisonneuve and also of those searched by the "tactiques" (tactics) squad. This is the closest I've come to a police state, and I have travelled on four continents.

Odette Laramee

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