Monday, August 11, 2008



What happened in Montréal-Nord last Saturday night is a matter of some dispute. Police claim that up to 20 youths surrounded a pair of officers and charged them when they attempted to arrest a local youth Fredy Villenueva. One (or more ?) of the officers discharged their guns, killing Villenueva and seriously injuring two others. Reports have differed as to which of the officers shot first. Other eyewitness reports have said that there were far fewer people involved in the original confrontation with the police, perhaps about 6. The investigation of the incident is now in the hands of the Sûreté Du Québec, the provincial police force, and things may or may not be clarified in the future.

What is not in doubt is what happened the other evening, as a demonstration protesting what many residents of Montréal-Nord feel is racial profiling on the part of the police turned into a full fledged riot as police and local youths played a cat and mouse game through the streets of the neighbourhood, with the youths having the home field advantage. In the end one police officer was shot, about 20 stores were looted and several city vehicles, both police and otherwise were burnt. Hundreds of police were dispatched to the neighbourhood to attempt to control the riot.

In the wake of these events numerous and sundry government officials in Québec, from the mayor of Montréal to Sylvie Roy, public security critic for the opposition Action democratique du Québec , jumped on a "law and order" bandwagon, saying that "this sort of thing will not be tolerated". The government of the province and the spokesmen for the Montréal police appeared to take a softer line, saying that the original shooting will "be investigated", appealing for calm, and saying that the Montreal police force is "trying" to improve its relations with minority communities. The police, however, had to throw in the old canard about "outside agitators" ie "criminals who came from outside of the community" to participate in the riot. Yup, there were indeed lots of "outsiders" fighting in the streets of Montréal-Nord yesterday evening, and the vast majority of them wore City of Montréal uniforms.


Montréal-Nord is an impoverished(in parts) community of about 84,000 people with a street gang problem, though hardly of the magnitude of cities out here in the west of Canada. About 25% of the area's population are immigrants (larger than that of the poorer West End of Winnipeg, but perhaps comparable to some more affluent areas of this city where Filipinos and South Asians settle), and about 15% are black and 3.5% latino. The first thing that strikes me on reading such numbers is how small they seem compared to some of Winnipeg's neighbourhoods which are far more than 15% aboriginal.

The comparison is especially apt as two aboriginal men have been killed by police here in Winnipeg, two in as many weeks. One by taser and one by gunshot. One of the deceased was the nephew of J.J. Harper, an innocent aboriginal man who was gunned down many years ago and whose death led to a major inquiry into police/aboriginal relations in this city. Most of the recommendations of that inquiry remain unimplemented over a decade after it delivered its report.

There is certainly a lot of bitterness amongst aboriginals in this city over the two recent deaths, but the whole idea of "rioting" is pretty well a non-starter here. For one thing the victims here in Winnipeg were nowhere near as clearly innocent of any crime as the victim in Montréal. But the contrast goes deeper than that. Montréal has what one might term "a culture of riot". That city may account for a clear majority of the riots in the whole of Canada that have occurred over the past few decades. Very few of these were racially based. In the last year alone a demonstration against police brutality ended in a riot in March when the police did exactly what they were accused of and attacked. In April we had the latest (of several ?) "hockey riots" after the Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins in the NFL semi-final. What would have happened if they had lost ?

There are undoubtedly many reasons for this. People are far more "concentrated" in Montréal than out here.I personally don't like the "cramped" feeling, but this has its good points. It means that Montréal has a far more vibrant "street life" than a city like Winnipeg does. This, in turn, means that Montréal is a far safer city than any in western Canada. Too many eyes on the street. If a population is concentrated it not only looks after itself but is also much more likely to "fight back" when it feels it is threatened, as many minorities in Montréal feel they are by the police. As well, Québec culture, in general and not just its minorities, is far less "deferent to authority" than that of the rest of Canada(and North America).The minorities take their cue from the majority. This is what makes that province perhaps the most interesting place on the continent. To a large extent the aboriginal population here in the west have yet to develop the idea of "fighting back" in a collective sense outside of the Rez. Not that such fighting back hasn't been growing,and not that it isn't fully justified, but it is far too much a individualist manner, often self-destructive, in which such fighting back occurs.


The ROC (Rest of Canada) will be flooded with mass media perspectives on the riots in the next few days. Here are a couple of perspectives that won't appear in your daily newspapers, both translations from platformist comrades in the province of Québec. The original French versions are available at the websites mentioned. First of all from La Commune, the website of the Montréal NEFAC(North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists).


Montreal North: Fire and Blood:

Montreal-Nord has been the site of violent clashes between police and many young people in the neighbourhood last night, the day after the murder of a district youth, 18 years of age, by a police officer.

Friday evening, Dany Villanueva was playing dice with some friends in a local park when he was stopped by a policeman patrolling nearby. After a few exchanges of insults, young people are probably too used to be harassed by the cops, the officer threw himself on Villanueva and began to punch him out. At this point, his brother and a friend Fredy interposed and try to restrain the officer. Reaction: four shot were fired at the youths, killing one person, Fredy Villanueva and two others were wounded.

While the police reported a veritable encirclement and weapons that the young people "possibly" had in their possession, many witnesses of the scene say that police were solely responsible for the incident and that the initial reaction that followed was totally disproportionate. Following the tragedy, no weapons were found on the youths. (Here in Winnipeg there is still some dispute about one of the killings as to whether the victim was armed with a knife or with a cellphone!!!!)

Twenty-four hours later, the anger erupts in the streets. A spontaneous demonstration turns to riot and police are deployed in force throughout the neighborhood. But this is not gratuitous violence: all the reports of the events (even the most reactionary) indicate that there is a widespread resentment against the police who expressed themselves the previous night.

"It is calm," police are crying today, of course. What they expect, this band of dangerous idiots ,that they can kill (once again) one of us with impunity and without consequences?


And then from the Voix de faits blog in Québec City, another group of NEFAC.


As everyone knows today, yesterday (10/08/08), in the North Terminal area (known by the police as Montréal Noir (Black Montreal), as they say Côtes des Négres instead of Côte des Neiges"(Black Coast rather than Snow Coast-Molly), a zealous cop lacking nuanced skill in his work has seen fit to fire on youths who were hanging out in the streets.
First lie: "there were about twenty who decided to attack our officers"-Said the spokesman for the SPVM(Montréal police-Molly).
First truth: an 18 year old youth no longer sees the sunset, nor breath in the smells of his neighbourhood nor anything else.
Second truth: There were about 6 young people and they probably weren't a threat to the ants on the pavement. Evil cellphones that can take videos, they constantly make liars out of the cops. ...

On the evening that followed the assassination, an event that the media described as peaceful (you certainly know that hackneyed term which means "not dangerous") turned to a riot. On this point, it is not necessary to blame the journalists too much since they / say they are talking to the camera to someone who must three messages in thirty seconds. Any longer and you lose the audience and that is not good for the station. However, this event was not peaceful at all.

Imagine you live in a neighborhood that lives constantly under high arrogant police presence . Imagine then that one of your own is brutally murdered in the street by the police and their mafia their uses of media to disseminate lies. Finally, the goddamn cell phone videos make you see the truth. If you're not angry, you are not right in the head.

So from that standpoint it is necessary to analyse the acts of yesterday evening. First, a murderous policeman. Secondly, a lying policeman. Thirdly, the event filled with angry people who see the fellows of the assassins before it. The final was easy to predict, but, with the brains of chickens, SPVM did not see coming.

What will happen tonight?


Nicolas said...

Beware comrade, the grass always look greener in the field of the neigbor...

Nicolas said...

Oh, and thanks for the translation.

Larry Gambone said...

Montreal cops are noted for their racism, brutality and cowardice. They like nothing much as attacking student demonstrations. But I noticed when I was in worker demonstrations - say with masses of iron workers, construction workers, dockers, folks who could do the donut quaffers some real damage, they were no where to be seen. One minor point Côtes des Négres does not mean "Black Coast" it means "Nigger Coast" which shows where the flatfoots are at.

ernest said...

"1)That any anarchist organization worthy of the name should make its opposition to violence quite explicit in its founding principles. This is common sense."
- Molly

"And since the environment today, which obliges most people to live in misery, is maintained by violence, we advocate and prepare for violence. That is why we are revolutionaries, and not because we are desperate men thirsting for revenge and filled with hate."
- Malatesta

mollymew said...

*Nicolas: maybe, but Québec still looks good to me. I guess I just like the place.
*Larry: In doing the translation I took the word to be something like "negro" which is hardly ever used today, so I used the word "black". Thanks for pointing out the slang connotations of the word. You should see me puzzling over what English swearword to use as a translation in the various contexts in which "maudit" is used.By the way, what was the term used to describe Michel Jeanne that caused such a fuss ? The memory eludes me at the moment.
*"Ernest": Come on now ! I thought I had made it VERY plain that I saw a big difference between community rebellion, like what happened in Montreal, with at least the "passive" sympathy of a large proportion of the population and the clownish, juvenile and ultimately futile posturing of so-called "revolutionaries". The opposition to violence is PLAINLY for the good of an organization that plans to do long term organizing and is unwilling to turn over what amount to "signed confessions" to the state out of some bizarre psychopathology that sees image rather than substance as important.
Community rebellions such as those in Montréal HAPPEN. NO AMOUNT OF LOUD VIOLENT RHETORIC ON THE PART OF SO-CALLED "REVOLUTIONARIES" BRINGS THEM ON ANY FASTER. GET IT !!!! The role of a radical organization, if it has its "troops on the ground" so to speak, is to take such incidents and use them as springboards for the development of more constructive long term organization.
Of course I realize that there are some 'anarchists" who want precisely that- disorganization. Any long term goal is irrelevant, and often directly contradictory, to their short term goal of image building. To each their own.
By the way, weren't you the same person who used the abstraction of "abstractions", when you couldn't grasp what it meant as an "argument". THIS is an example of an actually existing situation. The "opposition to violence" in this case merely means that you don't act like a juvenile clown whose idea of "anarchism" comes from Anarchy Magazine and Green Anarchy and that you don't "promote" the idea of more and more and more and more riots under the delusion that this constitutes progress, and that you pretty well point out the violence of the other side- the State. The Québec comrades have, in my opinion, passed this "maturity test" and proven that they see anarchism as a real and useful way of thinking that can inform POPULAR struggles- not the masturbatory fantasies of those who think they can "abolish civilization".

ernest said...

Malatesta equals Green Anarchy? Whodda thunk it?

If you're not against all violence why claim you are? What you claim to be against doesn't represent "violence" in all its facets.

mollymew said...

Don't be silly.
I won't bite at the bait. I am speaking about what a responsible anarchist, as part of an organization made up of such, or simply as one concerned with the long-term success of such a movement should say in public. The point, once more to the point of tedium, is that violence HAPPENS. It is NOT created by the fantasies of so-called revolutionaries. For one's personal well being and for the more altruistic reason of protection of the movement you identify with any and all anarchists should steer well clear of "advocating" such things because 1)such advocacy cannot produce such an effect-it is a fantasy 2)such advocacy leaves the proponents of such a view open to prosecution LONG BEFORE they can reach the level to actually BE effective(if the advocates have otherwise sensible ideas such advocacy is a great way to prevent the carrying out of such) and 3)most importantly it blinds the advocates to the need for much more important things that have to be done.
Number 3 is the most important. The term "riot porn" is actually quite descriptive. What should be on one's mind is how to use such violent events (and the vastly more numerous other inicidents that are non-violent) to advance a cause in more effective !!!!! ways that are non-violent by nature. Taking vicarious thrills from occasional violent events and nursing even more extreme fantasies about greater violence are too often substitutes for actual thought about WHAT CAN BE DONE IN THE HERE AND NOW. Sorta like being a Christian and putting the correction of all the world's ills into the Final Judgement.

Anybody who believes that we are anywhere near a situation in which violence can be useful, especially as advocated by "believers" in a sect or subculture is sorely deluded. The idea that we are near some sort of "revolution" is even further removed from reality.

A couple of other points. One is that someone who takes the growth of ANY position, anarchist or otherwise, seriously is concerned about the growth and effectivesness of that position. This is in contrast to those who Think that the whole thing is to score debating points and who don't take their own claim that the State is "a big NASTY" seriously enough and can't see the obvious- that such advocacy diminishes the chances of growth and effectiveness. NO...I cannot be baited into some sort of halfway position, and I will do my damndest to prevent others from falling under such an idea that will diminish THEIR effectiveness and expose them to danger. In other words I've been at this game just long enough to be fully immune to entrapment.No 'admissions" from this cat.

One other thing, I have also been at the game long enough to have abandoned the religious impulse to refer to Holy Writ. It doesn't matter to me what Malatesta wrote almost 100 years ago in TOTALLY different circumstances. What matters to me is the here and now, and right now prattling on about violence is a parlour game that only has detrimental consequences.

Larry Gambone said...

I would like to add that the Quebec comrades are like those in France, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, Sweden and a lot of other places now. They are bringing anarchism to working people and providing a worthwhile alternative to juvenile posturing.

As for Quebecois slang and swearing, I have always thought of "maudit" as meaning the same as damn or at most God damn. But then, "tabarnac","hostie" "calisse" and "ciboire" could also be translated as God Damn as well. This gives rise to problems of translating something like "Mon hostie calisse de tabarnac de criss!" There is really nothing equivalent in English. And the most powerful curse is "Va chier!" which literally translated means only "go shit!" but the intent translation is that of "Fuck you!" Hope this helps, Molly...

mollymew said...

Glad you pointed out the racist connotations of the word "nègre" to me. I was totally unaware of this, and my Larousse agrees with you. I guess I read too much Conan the Barbnarian when I was young, and the term "black coast" came immediately to mind. I never bothered to check. This puts Victor-Lévy Beaulieu's term for Micael Jean(did I spell her name right this time?), the Governor General, as the "Reine Nègre" into an entirely different perspective for me. I was rather befuddled by it when it happened, but this gives me the perspective that he wanted to be as insulting as possible. A new revelation every day in this interesting life.
I translated "maudit" in the piece above as "Goddamn". It's still often a puzzle to me as, depending on the severity it can seem to go from "damn, to goddamn to fucking to motherfucking". French is probably pretty lacking in swearwords, particularily of the sexual, ancestry or scatalogical modes, as compared to English. A rumour that I have heard says that Russian has the best collection of foul language of any language on Earth. I wonder if the rumour is true. Something to look up.