August 6, 2010
MONTREAL – Nearly two years after a police officer shot 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva to death, Montreal North residents say it’s time to take back public spaces so young people can feel at home in their neighbourhood instead of sensing they’re being watched.
Police officers slow down in their cruisers and stare at groups of youths, said Stephanie Germain, spokesperson for Hoodstock, the annual neighbourhood forum held to commemorate Villanueva’s death and address the broader problems in Montreal North.
“It’s as if they want us to feel like we’re intruders,” she said yesterday to journalists in the parking lot behind Henri Bourassa Park where Villanueva was shot on Aug. 9, 2008.
Taking back public space is the theme of this year’s Hoodstock, to be held Sunday, along with a memorial procession for Villanueva.
A Montreal police spokesperson was not available yesterday to comment on Germain’s statement.
Villanueva’s shooting raised the issue of racial profiling, but Montreal police have said the department does not tolerate racial profiling. Deputy police chief Sylvain Brouillette told The Gazette last year that complaints from residents in the aftermath of Villanueva’s death led to more specialized training for police officers in the anti-gang squad.
Villanueva was playing dice with a group of friends in the parking lot just before he was shot. Constable Jean-Loup Lapointe approached them, an altercation ensued, and Lapointe fired his gun as he tried to arrest Villanueva’s brother Dany. Fredy Villanueva was killed and two other men were wounded; all were unarmed.
The shooting sparked riots in Montreal North and protests against the police’s actions.
The public inquest into the shooting is to resume in September.
Alexandre Popovic, a spokesperson for the Coalition contre la repression et abus policiers, says his group intends to petition Montreal North borough council, and eventually the province’s toponymy commission, to change the name of Henri Bourassa Park to Fredy Villanueva Park so the incident will not be forgotten after the inquest is complete.