Monday, August 11, 2008
ANTI-POLICE RIOT IN MONTREAL:
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.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES:
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.
REPORTS FROM THE GROUND:
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.
HORRIBLE DAY/TORRID NIGHT:
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?