Anti-police-brutality protesters march through Parc-Extension
Approximately 150 demonstrators took to the streets in Parc-Extension on Monday night to protest against police brutality and to call for the abolishment of police forces. The group was met with heavy police presence both on bicycles and in riot gear.
In a statement published on their website, the organizers, the Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière (COBP), stated they were marching to denounce the abuses and violence of the police. The group stated that “the police attacks threatens the population daily,” adding that it can “no longer tolerate living in fear under its threatening shadow.”
“There have been beatings and many murders,” read the statement, adding that “people are imprisoned [and] families are broken.”
The protest marked the 25th annual edition of the anti-police brutality protest in Montreal, organized by the COBP. They stated that this year the SPVM allowed the protest to go forward “but with a very tight supervision,” read their statement.
Protestors wore masks and respected public health orders with regards to demonstrations.
How the protest went
Largely dressed in black and holding anti-police and anti-capitalist placards, protestors met in front of the Parc Metro station at 5 PM. Standing in the unusually cold March air, demonstrators listened to speeches from several different speakers.
At around 5:45 PM, the group marched north towards Saint-Roch street, looping back down to Jean-Talon, blocking some traffic for a short period. They were followed by a large number of police vehicles and officers on foot.
Demonstrators carried banners and chanted anti-police slogans as they made their way through Parc-Extension’s residential streets, catching many residents by surprise. Some in the crowd also fired fireworks into the air and used coloured smoke canisters.
Heavy police presence
As protestors marched east, they were met by large numbers of riot police at the corner of Parc and Jean-Talon and were subsequently followed for several blocks along Jarry Park.
The crowd arrived at Jarry Metro just before 7 PM and immediately dispersed, allowing time for protestors to get home in time for the 8 PM curfew, imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
No arrests were reported by the SPVM, but organizers claimed police officers “pushed people who did not follow their rules.”
Parc-Extension at the center of protest
Whereas in prior years protests occurred in Montreal’s downtown area, the COBP decided to host the march in Parc-Extension in 2021.
“We marched in Parc-Extension, a working class, poor, migrant-majority neighbourhood, because it is threatened by gentrification,” read their statement, underlining the current increase in rent prices occurring across the neighbourhood.
The group stated that this was in part due to wealthier people moving into the neighbourhood, as well as the effects the new Université de Montréal campus is having on the area.
“As a poor neighbourhood with a large racialized population, police harassment is part of everyday life in Parc-Extension,” stated the COBP, adding that racial profiling is still an issue and “nothing concrete has been done and the repression continues.”
Amid the protest, many local Parc-Extension residents watched from their houses or storefronts, either filming the protest or talking amongst themselves.
One of them was Marie-Ève L. Brodsky, a Parc-Extension resident who was leaving her apartment as the crowd marched down Jean-Talon. Although she was not participating in the event as she is 9 months pregnant, she fully supports the movement.
“There were recently really unfortunate events; it’s good that the police have to pay attention to the voices,” Brodsky said, adding that “it’s not just for this neighbourhood, but we need to put some pressure I think.”
Brodsky mentioned that issues of racism in policing are a major factor of why she supports the protest. “I see it sometimes people are not approached the same way if you’re looking a certain way or different way,” said Brodsky.
“If I see police talking to people in a certain way that I’m not being talked to this way, I’ll stop by and listen in to see if it’s crossing a line,” said Brodsky, but underling that she “shouldn’t have to do that.”
This came amid a year of fraught relations for police forces across Canada and the United-States, since the killing of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
Parc-Extension was recently host to a controversial event that saw the unlawful arrest and detention of Mamadi Camara, a Guinean graduate student, during a routine traffic stop. The intervening officer was assaulted with a pipe and had his service weapon stolen by a still-unknown assailant. Camara was subsequently arrested because he was thought to be the perpetrator.
Camara was held for six days before surveillance footage from the Ministry of Transportation exonerated him. Many have pointed to this as another example of rampant racial profiling in the police force.
The COBP also pointed to this as an example of racial profiling in policing. “In Parc-Ex, what happened to Mamadi Camara recently is a good example,” stated the COBP in their statement.