Montreal police use chemical irritants to disperse demonstrators

MONTREAL – Protesters lobbed objects at Montreal police and authorites responded by firing off chemical irritants in a bid to disperse a crowd of about 1,000 people in the downtown core Thursday evening.

Police updated the number of arrests to 10 and said several stores had been vandalized in the protest against police brutality.

Earlier, demonstrators smashed a Montreal law-enforcement vehicle during the march, which police quickly described as illegal.

Police asked the protesters to disperse, but they merely headed north to busy Sainte-Catherine Street and the area near the Bell Centre.

The event regularly turns into a symphony of smashed windows and projectiles lobbed at officers.

And this year was no exception as some protesters carried rocks and at least one building was spray-painted.

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“We’ve arrested 10 people and several stores have been vandalized,” Montreal police announced via social media. “A police car has been vandalized and projectiles are being thrown at police.”

Last year, by the time the event ended, there were more than 200 arrests.

This year’s anti-police march comes at a particularly sensitive time.

There have been battles in recent weeks at massive student protest marches against tuition hikes. One student suffered a serious eye injury amid a police intervention at a march last week.

Also heightening tensions are several shootings involving Montreal police, including one where an innocent bystander was killed by a stray bullet on his way to work at a hospital.

Police say 13 of the previous 15 editions of the march have degenerated into confrontations where arrests have been made.

A group called the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality, which organizes the annual event, never provides authorities with the protest route in advance as more mainstream protest organizers do.

“The route of the demonstration has not been provided and there exists no provision that obliges anyone to ask for a permit to demonstrate,” the collective said in a statement.

Organizers say other protests are planned in Toronto, Vancouver, Dallas, Brussels and Paris.