MONTREAL (CUP) — Havoc broke out within minutes of Montreal’s 14th annual anti-police brutality march on Monday, resulting in about one hundred arrests.
Arresting large groups, riot police gathered people and cornered them against a wall. The two sides remained in a standoff for over an hour before the protesters were loaded into city buses and carted to a police station in the city’s east end.
Michael Connors, a Concordia University journalism student, was in a standoff against police with about 30 other people, at the corner of Hochelaga Street and Prefontaine Street.
“Basically none of the people in that group were the ones performing any of the protests,” Connors said from the police station. “It felt more like we were used as examples for the rest of the crowd. We were unlucky, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Connors, alongside everybody else who was cuffed, searched, and led to one of three city buses, received a citation for being at an illegal assembly.
Crowds of demonstrators gathered outside the Pie-IX subway station in the east end of Montreal beginning around 5 p.m. on March 15.
Before leading the crowd south along Pie-IX Boulevard, organizers made an appeal to both the demonstrators and police to remain calm and peaceful.
The plea was quickly forgotten.
A smaller group of demonstrators, dressed head-to-toe in black clothing, were seen coming from a driveway on Pie-IX Boulevard, many reaching into garbage cans and under vehicles, grabbing full garbage and grocery bags.
Minutes later, after turning east on to Ontario Street, a BB gun shot was fired. Paintballs were fired as the marchers encountered the first group of police, dressed in full riot gear, with some on horseback.
As a warning, police tapped their billy clubs against the shields.
In response, firecrackers were launched at police, eventually provoking a brawl that saw four or five men, alleged to be undercover cops, flee the pack of marchers.
Though organizers never revealed the path for the march, police seemed prepared, armed and ready at almost every turn.
Demonstrators were chanting, “Fuck the police,” “Liberer nos camarades,” and calling police “assassins.”
Some said the police presence was too strong at the march, which has developed a reputation for becoming violent.
“Sometimes the police act violently towards protesters, and that’s unacceptable,” said Stefan Christoff, a social activist, musician and journalist based in Montreal. “But really, what I think is important today is why so many people are protesting, and why those numbers are increasing every March 15.”
Approximately 200 people participated in the 1998 march, while last year’s event drew over 2,000.
Last year, over 220 people were arrested. Six police cruisers were vandalized, some of them being lit on fire.